Women on the Verge

Santa Concepción loosens tongues; A Piece of the Rope lampoons a hang-up

Hatcher, instead, makes elaborate use of purely theatrical devices like humorous sound cues and comic asides. While Kristen Frantzich plays Bilansky with a toothsome grin and an engagingly menacing Southern accent, the production really belongs to Julian Bailey, who plays multiple characters, all of them essentially serving as the narrator. During the trial, Bailey depicts both prosecutor and defense merely by alternating which hand he uses to gesture.

Let her dangle: Kristen Frantzich plays Minnesota's first executed convict Ann Bilansky in A Piece of the Rope
Let her dangle: Kristen Frantzich plays Minnesota's first executed convict Ann Bilansky in A Piece of the Rope

Hatcher has made his reputation on plays, such as the ghoulishly funny Three Viewings, that are notable for their sardonic sensibility and wry use of language, and these qualities buoy A Piece of the Rope, bringing out the darkly comic undertones inherent in the story. It is not enough for Hatcher to describe a character as "sweaty," for example. Instead, he writes, "His perspiration--never meager--has in these past weeks become a roiling stream." Little flourishes like this are played throughout the script like grace notes, making what could have been a grim little song into a jocund, if morbid, melody.

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