Alleged ax-murderer Lizzie Borden is among the most notorious women in New England history. Although she was ultimately acquitted of hacking up her father and step-mother in Fall River, Massachusetts, the grisly details of the killings and the sensationalism of the trial have assured her a lurid place in American folklore. But in two new one-acts, billed together as Axed!, renowned feminist playwright Carolyn Gage contends that Borden is actually among New England's most misunderstood women. Starring Karen Ball, Josieda Lord, and the magnificent Denise Poirier — in a rare visit from her new base in New York — Gage's exploration of Borden and her intimates runs January 6 through 8, at Lucid Stage.
In the one-woman show Lace Curtain Irish, Poirier stars as Bridget Sullivan, the Irish maid who was present the morning of the murders and harrowingly retrieves her trauma on stage. Director Ariel Francoeur — herself once a member of the Portland theater community — first directed Poirier in this role as part of an Off-Off-Broadway Festival in New York, and now brings the show to Portland. We're luck to have this visit from Poirier, a simply magnificent performer, and to watch her in this devastating, emotionally difficult role is an opportunity not to be missed.
Gage herself directs the second play of Axed!, entitled The Greatest Actor Who Ever Lived. This two-woman work, which premiered this fall at the Fresh Fruit LGBT Festival in New York, explores the relationship between Borden and her lesbian lover, famed actress of the day Nance O'Neil (Ball), in her pugnacious interviews with a closeted tabloid reporter (Lord).
"As a lesbian historian, I have been haunted by Lizzie Borden for many years," says Gage. "But she was one of the most private women in history, and so it has been necessary to approach her identity through the more colorful characters in her life — and these women are wild!"
AXED! | Jan 6-8 @ Lucid Stage, 29 Baxter Blvd, Portland | benefit for Lucid Stage, produced by Cauldron & Labrys | $12 | 207.899.3993 | lucidstage.com