Imagine you are in a West Virginia coal mine, and there is a cave it. It is cold, and the only light is from the tiny one on top of your helmet or the helmet of a coworker. That is what Aztec Economy does to you during this unusual and creative production of Butcher Holler Here We Come, written by Casey Wimpee and directed by Leah Bonvissutto.
The play deals with the lives of 5 miners who are trapped not just in the bowels of the earth, but with each other. Two brothers come to terms with a long family secret that has torn them up emotionally for many years. One of the brothers is near death at the beginning, and we are never really sure if he is just dead or in a coma at times. One of the men may have caused the cave in or is that his imagination? The other, Hiccup, called that because he often does, is half-crazed due to a tick bite. The last is stoned on Special K (ketamine) and is totally unpredictable.
The question is: “Will they get out, and will they survive their own demons?” The story is fiction but smacks of realism. Reality and imagination are blurred and the audience must subjectively interpret what they are presented.
The name Butcher Holler comes from the Loretta Lynn song “Coal Miner’s Daughter.”
The acting is excellent, and since the play is done in total darkness except for the helmet lights, it was sometimes hard to figure out who was speaking. That did not affect the flow of the play or my interest.
This is an ensemble production, and the performers do a fine job. Adam Belvo (K-Bus), is sweet but sinister, Isaac Byrne is Hiccup, the fevered tick bitten miner. Michael Mason is Muskie Pope, who sits in the middle of the audience until he appears to come to life later in the play. Adam Laten Willson is Leander Pope, who carries the families’ secrets and suffers from black lung disease. Playwright Casey Wimpee, performs the role of Jet who decompensates from sniffing drugs or hypothermia, or both.
Director Bonvissuto incorporates the audience as part of the mine. The actors bob and weave through the seats all through the production. It is very creative.
Butcher Holler Here We Come is an experience you won’t want to miss. You will not be left in the dark.
A note: There is no late seating due to the darkness, and once there you cannot leave.
There is one more performance today at at 1:45 PM.
Running Time: 70 minutes, with no intermission.
After the performance tonight there was a small reception which included singers from Opera on Tap! These young singers were very talented and added to the enjoyment of the evening.
The Columbia Festival of the Arts continues this weekend and next. For schedule and ticket information, visit the the festival’s website. Tickets can be purchased online or by phone from Tickets.com, or by calling (800) 955-5566.
Columbia Festival of the Arts Part 1: Opening Night at the Lakefront by Susan Brall.
Columbia Festival of the Arts: Day Two at the Lakefront by Susan Brall.
Columbia Festival of the Arts: Part 3: Last Day at Lakefront by Susan Brall.
Columbia Festival of the Arts: Part 4: Last Day at Lakefront by Susan Brall.