Jefferson Hagen as John Wilkes Booth, left, and
Jared McDaris as Edwin Booth in
Where I Live.”
- When the renowned actor-director-playwright Angela
Ianonne researched the famed and troubled life of the
infamous actor Edwin Booth, she found herself fascinated
with the complexity of his life. With that curiosity and
her prodigious talent, she began writing a cycle of
plays about him. Her first, “The Seeds of Banquo,”
which played at Soulstice Theatre in 2015, is now
followed by the intriguing sequel “This Prison Where I
Live,” now being staged at the Tenth Street Theatre.
Booth, one of three illegitimate sons of the successful
actor Junius Booth, was the most successful actor of the
three siblings. His younger brother, John Wilkes Booth,
the assassin of Abraham Lincoln, however, enjoyed some
success as well, but was always jealous of his older
brother’s greater acclaim. John was better looking and
brasher than Edwin and led a looser lifestyle than his
was understandably deeply grieved and ashamed of his
actions. His life was never the same after John
disgraced and destabilized the family. In this drama, we
experience Edwin’s anxiety when he is visited by
John’s and his deceased wife Mollie’s ghosts. The
other two characters that people this drama are his
second wife Mary and a devoted theatergoer, Mr. Mark
Gray, who attempts to interview Edwin regarding his
views on death.
play is tense throughout, and the five actors all do
their part to sustain this atmosphere. Occasionally
there is a tad of humor, usually delivered by John’s
ghost, which provides a wry contrast.
the play opens, Edwin is preparing for his role as
Richard II, a role that he has reprised countless times,
but on this night, he is palpably rattled.
When his present wife arrives to calm him, he
cursorily dismisses her. When John arrives, with his
cocky swagger, Edwin gets even more shaken. His first
wife, the diseased Mollie, also appears to him, a woman
whom he deeply loved but neglected during his short
marriage to her. We sense his guilt and remorse whenever
is obviously imprisoned by the ghosts of his past. When
one of his fans arrives upon the scene, a young man who
is suffering from an incurable disease, and asks him
questions about death, Edwin is outraged to be asked
such personal questions, and his fierce protection of
his privacy is clearly manifest in his interaction with
the hapless Mr. Gray.
McDaris captures the internal anguish of Edwin; Cory
Jefferson Hagen, the overweening bravado of the young
assassin; Brandon Haut, the neurotic anxiety of the
young theater buff. All three actors are fascinating to
watch. Each is highly individualized and splendidly fit
for their roles.
two wives, who play lesser roles, are well-portrayed by
Andrea Chastant Burkholder as Mollie, the beautiful
wraith; and Marcee Doherty-Elst, the frustrated wife
unable to reach her husband. They both added to the
cumulative agony of the suffering actor.
acting, a well-conceived script directed by its author,
well-chosen costumes (Leah Dueno) and a chilling set
design (Christopher Elst) all combined for an engrossing
experience. This production deserves a bigger audience.
“This Prison Where I Live”
play runs through Sept. 9 at the Tenth Street Theatre,
628 N. 10th St., Milwaukee. Call 414-617-0132 or visit