Last night I spent a little over an hour sitting next to a possible dead body.
Aztec Economy, an arts collective out of Brooklyn, is inventively staging its eerie short play in near-darkness inside the Stone Cottage. Since the premise concerns a group of coal miners trapped underground after a suspicious explosion, this immersive environment—in which the audience is warned to keep its hands, feet, and drinks as close in as possible—is a clever choice. If only the script by Casey Wimpee weren’t quite so murky.
I was struck more than once at the similarities between Butcher Holler and the 1982 movie The Thing. There might not be any aliens here in 1973 West Virginia, but the claustrophobia and murderous paranoia are abundant. We’re told in fragmented scenes how the men came to be in their perilous situation (and who might have been responsible), but it’s not always clear when we’re in the present or past. The ingenious headlamps the cast wears, which throw ghoulish shadows over bulging eyeballs and terror-stretched mouths, feel out of place during the flashbacks.
Adam Belvo and Cole Wimpee are especially effective with their characters (to tell you why would ruin the plot. Sorry). Michael Mason, though “comatose” for a good portion of the 70 minutes, brings a menacing machismo to his flashback scenes. And as a heads up, he’s not the only corpse you might be sitting next to.
See it? As long as you’re not afraid of the dark.
Stone Cottage, repeats Mar. 8, 5 p.m. and Mar. 9 at 2 p.m.