Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Boston

Blood on the Snow
The Bostonian Society
Review by Sarah Chantal Parro

Also see Josh's review of Hedwig and the Angry Inch

Dale Place
Photo by Nile Hawver/Nile Scott Shots
What do you know about the Boston Massacre? If you live in Boston, or if you've visited and walked the Freedom Trail, perhaps you've stood in the very spot where it happened outside the Old State House, the historic structure now almost comically dwarfed by the surrounding office buildings and accouterments of bustling downtown Boston. Five people died in the massacre, a chaotic and pivotal event that occurred on a moonlit winter night in 1770. I'll admit I was surprised (a little amused, even) when I first learned the death toll was "only" five—I suppose I expected more from a massacre. Perhaps that is simply a sign of how desensitized we have become to violence and how accustomed we are to war and chaos. It's all the more reason to take in a show like Blood on the Snow.

Following a sold-out run in 2016, Blood on the Snow performs again this summer in the council chamber of the Old State House, offering an opportunity to travel back in time to the tense day following the Boston Massacre and impressively occupying the very room where the events of the play took place. But don't let the quill pens and colonial attire fool you: the play's motifs—political strife, rioting crowds, police and military brutality, the nature of justice and liberty—are certainly relevant in our own historical moment here in 2017.

In the years leading up to the Boston Massacre, the colony had been growing increasingly restless and violent. British troops arrived in 1768 in an attempt to maintain order, but their presence sparked more fights and disputes. The day after the massacre, while the snow outside was still stained red with blood, Governor Thomas Hutchinson met with his council members to deliberate what to do in the wake of the tragic, and still unclear, events.

We have Patrick Gabridge to thank for writing the text, only four years ago; Gabridge, a Playwriting Fellow with the Huntington Theatre Company and New Repertory Theatre, is author of several historical plays and three novels. He clearly has a talent for the genre, as Blood on the Snow proves he can elucidate a historical event without slipping into exposition. When Samuel Adams (played by Craig Ciampa) enters the room, his relationship with Governor Hutchinson is illuminated with a single word: Adams addresses him as the "acting" governor, with telling emphasis. The only time we really get a rundown of events is in the testimony of a slave named Andrew, and even then it's engaging because it's in the form of an emotional first-person account. Actor Trinidad Ramkissoon, who has performed on Broadway and toured with Youth Underground, gives a moving performance that enhances the humanity and fright of the massacre.

Every member of the dynamic ensemble cast lends something unique to the performance. Fitting for a play about politics, each character has a bias and an agenda, but thanks to the beautiful pairing of Gabridge's text and the actors' performances, they all have personalities, too. Boston-based actor Lewis D. Wheeler plays council member Samuel Dexter; maybe it's because his green and brown costume reminded me of Robin Hood, but Wheeler manages to be lively and amicable despite the bleak state of affairs. Daniel Berger-Jones, another Bostonian, plays Lt. Colonel William Dalrymple; most of Berger-Jones's credits are Shakespeare related (among them Actors' Shakespeare Project and The Complete Works of William Shakespeare [abridged] ), which is not surprising given that his deep, resonating voice carries weight and power even when he's speaking softly.

Governor Thomas Hutchinson, played by Dale Place, steals the show. Throughout the performance, I kept jotting down striking lines, most of which Gabridge gave to Hutchinson. In cautioning his council members against a rash, emotional response to the massacre (while acknowledging the powerful emotions surrounding the event), Hutchinson says, "Vengeance moves quickly; justice proceeds slowly." It is a powerful thing to witness this production in "the room where it happened," to borrow (as The Boston Society has) the line popularized by a certain freestyling Broadway star. (If, after seeing the show, you are as impressed by Hutchinson as I was, you can even tweet about it using the hashtag #HutchinsonNotHamilton.) Place, who has performed on Broadway, with the New York Shakespeare Festival, and in many Boston-area theatres, lends wisdom, empathy, and an enjoyably dark sense of humor to Hutchinson, even in the slightest frowns and grumbling asides.

At about an hour runtime, even those who aren't history buffs can enjoy this production. Blood on the Snow invites us to sit in the uncertainty between past and future. As audience, we look back in time at the characters onstage; we know how history unfolded. But as Hutchinson says, "None of us possess a map to the future," and the consequences of our actions in the present are never fully known. This play, although a story of the past, may inspire us to forge ahead with discernment and a mind for truth and justice no matter what challenges await.

Blood on the Snow runs Wednesdays through Sundays through August 20, 2017, at the Old State House, 206 Washington Street, Boston MA 02109. All performances begin at 7:30 pm. Tickets and more information are available at General admission: $35.00.

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