Zachary Burrell in The Stranger and Ludlow Quinn. Photo-Theatre[502]

The Stranger and Ludlow Quinn, Chapter Nine: What Happened in Montreal

Written by Diana Grisanti and Steve Moulds
Directed by Gil Reyes

Review by Keith Waits

Entire contents copyright © 2014 by Keith Waits, all rights reserved.

Ludlow Quinn meets Harry Houdini in Chapter Nine of The Stranger and Ludlow Quinn, and the encounter brings us even closer to an understanding of the essential truth at the heart of this mystery, or does it? Before we finish this 15 minutes, a very satisfyingly Houdini-centric episode, we have learned so much, but remain bewildered.

Most of the action details a moment in Montreal in 1926 wherein an uncharacteristically humble and uncertain Ludlow approaches an arrogant and paranoid Houdini with his autoscribe. Having grown accustomed to Eli Keel’s braggadocio in this role, it was refreshing to see him play the character in such a humbled state, while Zachary Burrell continues to delight in this fictional rendition of the famed escape artist’s final days. 

Bonnie Burke (Becca Willenbrink) and her deceased friend Jill (Alexandria Sweatt) return in the second portion, still INSIDE the autoscribe (which is, of course, how the dead Jill has returned to the action) to discover a surprising revelation about the depth of Houdini’s role in their experience.

That the production can manage subtlety and wildly melodramatic flourishes, particularly in the welcome return of hilarious silent movie footage adroitly handled by Mark Elsherif, is further testament to how supple this enterprise continues to be. Now, as the end approaches, it also gains narrative urgency from the pending climax. Yet, even though it was billed as the “penultimate chapter” in the series, Chapter Nine is still posing new questions even as it answers a several more. The authors have confirmed that even the next and final chapter will still be a cliff-hanger, with final resolution withheld until the retooling of the entire story into one night of theatre in April. That’s what a “cliffhanger” means, folks, and it promises to be epic. How could it be anything else? The Stranger and Ludlow Quinn plays like a trifle, but still touches on weighty themes such as identity and immortality, while depicting supernatural attempts to manipulate destiny that edge into metaphysical territory.

The final chapter arrives on the First Friday of March, performed at 7:00pm, 8:00pm, 9:00pm, and 10:00pm. Admission is free but donations are welcome.

The Stranger and Ludlow Quinn, Chapter Nine: What Happened in Montreal

February 7, 2014

Theatre [502]
at The Baron’s Theatre
131 West Main Street
Louisville, KY 40202