f you think you know what to expect in The Bad Seed because of the iconic 1956 horror/thriller film, think again. Stagecrafters has given a delightfully campy feel to this horror genre classic that will have audiences roaring with laughter. The Bad Seed runs June 1st through June 17th at the Baldwin Theatre, 415 S. Lafayette in downtown Royal Oak.
The Bad Seed probes beneath the surface of what appears to be a perfect family. Eight-year-old Rhoda Penmark (Julie Spittle of Troy) loves playing the piano, tap dancing and being evil. The sweet and sugary façade begins to disintegrate when a tragic accident occurs at a school outing. Christine Penmark (Randi Hamilton of Ferndale) begins to question her daughter’s involvement in it. The recipe for campiness continues with the loopy landlady, Monica (Donna Edwards of Clawson), the drunken mother of Rhoda’s deceased classmate, Mrs. Daigle (Laurane Walker of Ferndale), the creepy janitor, Leroy (Grant Hale of Washington Twp), as well as a cast of other zany characters. As Christine accepts Rhoda’s nasty persona and that some people are simply born evil, she knows what she has to do to stop it.
The play has been interpreted as a campy version of the original drama by Kathleen Lietz of Royal Oak. “We use a stylized acting method, similar to the acting from that time period with specific vocal tones, mannerisms and gestures. Of course, we amplify that for comedic effect. I wanted to direct the show because it is iconic -- it is the first movie to ever put forward the notion of an evil, psychotic child. I also wanted to direct something that would make people laugh and simply give people a fun evening out. Sometimes, we all need that kind of play,” say Lietz.
Putting “campy” into the show has been challenging, but in a good way, says Lietz. “The material is dated and wordy, so that can be challenging, and all of the "interesting stuff" takes place offstage, so I’ve found a way to bring the audience closer to the focal point of the scene. We started with the core of the show -- character, motivation -- and had the actors re-look at how and what is being said. We became more literal and opened ourselves to new interpretations. During rehearsals, we brought all funny ideas to the table to see what worked. It has been a collaborative, iterative process that was fun for the cast and energizing for me as a director,” says Lietz.
The Bad Seed was adapted for the stage by Maxwell Anderson. Anderson based the play on the novel of the same name by William March in 1954. March wrote the novel to theorize the roots of evil – can it be inherited and how do we eliminate it? Anderson’s play opened December 8, 1954, at the 46th Street Theatre in New York. The stage production received rave reviews and was shortlisted for the 1955 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. The play’s final performance was on September 27, 1955.
In 1956, John Lee Mahin adapted the story into an Academy Award-nominated film of the same name. The horror-thriller film starred Nancy Kelly (who won the 1955 Tony Award for Best Actress in the role as the mother), Patty McCormack, and Eileen Heckart – all of whom received Oscar nominations for their performances. The ending of the film is different from the stage play and novel due to censorship by the Motion Picture Production Code. The film has become a horror film genre and cult classic.
Ready to really get into the character of Rhoda? Stagecrafters is holding a “Best Rhoda Costume and Temper Tantrum Contest” during intermission of the June 7th performance. Contestants appearing in costume will give their 15-second interpretation of a “Rhoda-style” tantrum on the stage. Judges include Gary Baglio of Five15, Royal Oak, Doris Boris of Stagecrafters, and Joe Plambeck of The Ringwald Theatre, Ferndale. The top three winners will be awarded prizes by Emcee Vince Kelley. Contest rules are available at www.stagecrafters.org.
Advance tickets are $16 and $18. Thursday Special -- 4 tickets for $50. Tickets may be purchased online at www.stagecrafters.org or by phone at 248-541-6430 using Visa and MasterCard. All seats are reserved. If shows have not sold out, tickets can be purchased at the box office one hour prior to the performance for an additional $2.00 per ticket.
Show dates and times follow:
Friday, June 1 8:00 pm
Saturday, June 2 8:00 pm
Sunday, June 3 2:00 pm
Thursday, June 7 8:00 pm*
Friday, June 8 8:00 pm
Saturday, June 9 8:00 pm
Sunday, June 10 2:00 pm
Thursday, June 14 8:00 pm
Friday, June 15 8:00 pm
Saturday, June 16 8:00 pm
Sunday, June 17 2:00 pm
*Best “Rhoda” Costume and Temper Tantrum Contest