FallFringe Review: ‘The Brontes’ by Cyle Durkee

I used to think that the best thing about the old west was that you could ride around doing just about anything you wanted, as long as you had a big gun (and you were willing to mortgage your soul for a crappy camping place and some disease ridden prostitutes). I now think that the best thing about the old west would have been the Dizzy Miss Lizzy Roadside Revue! Like a band of gypsies trundling through the dust, they arrive onstage and you immediately feel like you are watching a group of snake oil salesmen (with better sound equipment). The unlikely subject of their rock operetta is the famous Bronte siblings of literary fame (well a few of them are famous {then there’s the drunk [and the feminist]}).

DMLRR’s THE BRONTES, currently performing as part of fallFRINGE! November 1-18, 2012! — with Dani Danger Stoller, Matthew Schleigh, Rich Nagel, Steve McWilliams, Debra Buonaccorsi, Jason Wilson and Gillian Shelly. Photo courtesy of Steve Williams.

The show basically takes us through the lives of all four siblings until they are ushered into the afterlife by a hoodie-wearing death (Jason Wilson).  Now you might think that the lives of the Brontes would not make for a series of rollicking rock songs (and you would be wrong).  We begin with Branwell (Rob Meuller) {who stepped in at the last minute and did an amazing job}) as he drinks and gambles himself to death while trying to write as well as his sisters (which he does not).  We then move on to Emily Bronte (Dani Stoller) who tries to describe Wuthering Heights but is kicked off the mic by her siblings. Dani then becomes Heathcliff (the anti hero of the famous novel) and the rest of the cast shifts from character to character as they describe the story. It ends with Heathcliff going crazy and Emily Bronte exiting this life via an upstage curtain.

Next we discover Anne Bronte’s (Laura Keena) trials and tribulations in dealing with her drunken brother, her search for love, and desire for fulfillment. She finally recognizes that her books are definitely an acquired taste before she, too, is led into death’s embrace. And finally we deal with Charlotte Bronte’s (Debra Buonaccorsi) desire to be recognized for her genius. As her deceased siblings come back, they help her realize that, while she wasn’t rich or famous in life, her books have helped shape all the generations since.  And with that realization she enters the afterlife and we are treated to a final song.

Now, all this is helped along by “The Carnies” (Gillian Shelley, Mike Kozemchak, Steve McWilliams, Jason Wilson, and Rich Nagel). They are the gypsies that glue the various lives and songs together in an intelligible form and help move the story to its rich conclusion.

I loved it. The performances were delightful and powerful and playful. That is a difficult combination to pull off. Dani Stoller rocked as Emily Bronte (it felt like I was watching X Factor or The Voice for one of the songs). Debra Buonaccorsi and Laura Keena had an amazing duet at the end of the show that just tugged at every string in your heart. Gillian Shelly is so exuberant and creepy that she deserves a show just for that character.

The Brontes was amazing!

I will be going to see Dizzy Miss Lizzie every chance I get.  I suggest you follow my lead!

Running Time: 90 minutes with no intermission. Performances have ended, but I’m sure this show will be mounted elsewhere. It’s that great!


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