Is it a crime … if God commands?

“Under a Red Moon” examines that very question

By Brian P. Sharp

Human Race Theatre Company is offering the world premiere of “Under a Red Moon” – a play by Michael Slade under the direction of Margarett Perry. Any play that is taken from real life always intrigues me. This play came after the playwright crossed paths with what could have been the next victim of a serial killer.

Imagine England in the 1940s just after the war. A man, a professional, comes into your life and befriends you. You become nearly inseparable. He knows you so well he can even forge your handwriting. Then the unthinkable happens. He takes you to his workshop in the country, and there he kills you, places your body in a vat of sulphuric acid so your body disintegrates and then pours the remnants onto the soil behind the workshop. Worse yet, no one misses you!  No one searches for you, no one knows you’re dead!

Or, think of it … you’ve just graduated college. You and a friend have decided to travel Europe. However, the family with whom you were supposed to stay had significant damage to their home during the war and they cannot house you and your friend. Arrangements have been made by your host family for you and your friend to stay in a residential hotel. Thinking all would be well, you meet a charming local business man, Mr. Haigh. You know the type: larger than life, can help you maneuver the city, helps understand the currency exchange, knows all of the great places to go. Then Mr. Haigh invites you to visit the English countryside with him. However, your host family has made arrangements to have tea at the House of Lords. You simply cannot turn down that invitation and, being too embarrassed to admit it, you leave a note of apology for your new friend, Mr. Haigh, begging forgiveness and not admitting that you are leaving the next day for Paris. Imagine your shock when several weeks later, Mr. Haigh was pictured on every newspaper in Europe with a headline that read: Acid Bath Murderer Confesses!

These murders didn’t just happen once, but nine times. Is this a deranged serial killer? Is this a man acting out God’s commands? Is he insane? Is it a crime … if God commands?  The killer admits the crimes by walking into the police station. But why? Why now? There are no bodies. There are no remains. So, are there really killings? What is the truth?

This world premier is being produced in partnership with the Carnegie Visual and Performing Arts Center in Covington, Ky. The show runs from Oct. 18-27 at The Loft Theatre in downtown Dayton.

Come see the interview by the Psychiatrist to determine sane or insane. Appropriately set by Scott Kimmins, you feel you are in the prison examination room. John Rensel does a superb job lighting the production. You can feel the intensity and the insanity…or is it sanity?

You really don’t want to miss this show! Dee Pelletier does and incredible job as Dr. Ruth Covington, with accents so perfect they seem authentic. Pelletier brings great credibility to the role, making you believe that she too struggles, yet really is only playing with the patient … or is she? Bradford Cover delivers a believable and charismatic performance as John George Haigh.  At some points, he has us eating out of his hand, so to speak. Daniel C Britt lends support as Ralph Gow.

I had the chance to talk to the playwright, who is starting to feel like Dayton is his second home.

Michael Slade is a delightful man, a man that credits much of his success as a writer to imagination. His imagination was fueled by his grandmother who took him on walks in New York City and while sitting in Central Park or Washington Square Park, she suggested that they make up stories about people passing by.

Slade grew up in Long Island and remembers those days fondly. He attended public elementary, middle and high school.  Then he attended college, majoring in theatre. His first love was acting because it allowed him to become someone else. He has done his share of tours, TV pilots, commercials, voice-overs and even soap operas. While doing all of this, writing was a hobby.

Then he showed his writing to some of his friends and they loved it! He said, “I didn’t really like the business of being an actor.” Slade says writing is a creative art, while acting is an interpretive art. He said, “I love watching the actors interpret his words,” and sometimes they become a little like Frankenstein’s monster … they don’t know what was in his mind, but they become something real. He said, “I learn something through every step of the process.”

He says that Dayton has welcomed him like one of its own. As part of the Human Race workshop in March, they will produce his show “Gingerbread Children.” Then Zoot Theatre Company will produce a puppet version of his work “And A Child Shall Lead.” Slade said “Human Race, and especially Kevin Moore, have been so wonderful to me.”

Get your tickets now…while they last for “Under a Red Moon.” You don’t want to miss this thriller!

“Under a Red Moon” runs through Oct. 27 at the Loft Theatre, 126 N. Main St.  Tickets can be ordered online at www.ticketcenterstage.com or by calling 937-228-3630. For more information, visit humanracetheatre.org.

Reach DCP theatre critic Brian P. Sharp at Theatre@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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Reach DCP food critic Brian P. Sharp at BrianSharp@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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