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Under a Red Moon (Review)

Glimpse inside a serial killer's sensitive psyche in seesaw game of cat-and-mouse

By Rick Pender · November 5th, 2012 · Onstage
onstage 11-14 carnegie - under a red moon - bradford cover & dee pelletier - photo scott kimminsBradford Cover and Dee Pelletier in Under a Red Moon. - Photo: Scott Kimmins
Hannibal Lecter might have taken lessons from John George Haigh, a British serial killer who murdered at least a half-dozen innocent victims in the late 1940s, possibly drank some of their blood and then disposed of their remains with sulfuric acid. The “Acid Bath Killer,” as Haigh came to be known, is the subject of a new play, Under a Red Moon, in a world premiere production at Covington’s Carnegie Center. Playwright Michael Slade’s script has been co-produced by the Carnegie and Dayton’s Human Race Theatre Company, where the show had a three-week run in October — which means that this is a polished production of a thriller that grabs you by the throat. Almost literally.

In the same vein as Silence of the Lambs, Slade uses an intense interview to tell the story. A psychiatrist, Dr.

Ruth Covington (Dee Pelletier), has been charged with determining the sanity of the intelligent, charming Haigh (Bradford Cover). The 100-minute performance (no intermission) is set in a barren room at a London prison, a cat-and-mouse exchange between two intriguing individuals. At first the interrogator seems very buttoned-up, focused on drawing out her subject. She digs for details of Haigh’s disturbing childhood with strict parents who were adherents to an ultraconservative religious sect; he describes his father as a “child of Satan” and his mother as a “child of God,” polarities that twisted his sensitive psyche. As their verbal sparring continues, Haigh gets under his questioner’s skin and we learn more about her. She might be as twisted as he. Or maybe it’s a ploy to gain his confidence. Manipulation goes both ways in their seesaw battle of wills.

Pelletier and Cover have mastered their characters, and the set (by Scott J. Kimmins, imported from Dayton’s Loft Theatre) works on the Carnegie’s shallow stage. There’s creepy lighting (John Rensel) and eerie sound (Nathan D. Dean) that build the mood. Nevertheless, from the get-go it’s evident that Haigh is as nutty as they come, so there aren’t many profound revelations, mostly just shocking details of his crimes. The intensity of their encounter begins at a high pitch and doesn’t really build. Despite that, I suspect many people will be on the edge of their seats witnessing this hair-raising story.

UNDER A RED MOON, presented by the Carnegie Center, continues through Nov. 18.



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