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Blood Privilege Play Review

Written by Karin Crighton

At the Richmond Shepard Theatre through February 24




Click images to enlarge.

Directed by Andy McQuade
Written by Don Fried
2-hour running time; one 15-minute intermission
February 6 - 24, additional dates in London


Jessie Komitor as Elizabeth (Erzsébeth) Bathory

Mark Binet as Cuyorgy Thurzo

Rachel Tate as Katalin

John D’Arcangelo as King Matthias

Heather Lee Harper as Szilva

Andrew Rothkin as Ferenc Nadasdy/Pataky

J. B. Alexander as Lorand Sigray

Jessie Komitor as Countess Elizabeth Bathory, J.B. Alexander  as Baron Lorand Sigray. (Photo courtesy of Don Fried.)
Jessie Komitor as Countess Elizabeth Bathory, John  D'Arcangelo as King Matthias, Mark Binet as Count Cuyorgy Thurzo, (kneeling)  Heather Lee Harper as Szilva de Kehida. (Photo courtesy of Don Fried.)

Click images to enlarge.


Don Fried’s new play Blood Privilege is a feminist powerhouse; the Countess Elizabeth Batony could be the Hedda Gabler of 16th Century Hungary, with equally tragic outcomes.

I was fortunate enough to be invited to review Mr. Fried’s play at the Richmond Shephard Theatre on East 26th Street for Horror DNA, as the play was based on a surprisingly horrific true story. The legend surrounding Countess Elizabeth Báthony, pronounced Erzsébet, claims that she murdered hundreds of young girls to bathe in their youth-retaining virgin blood. While the playwright sides against historical documents surrounding the legend that the “bloodbaths” to maintain her beauty, he certainly agrees they were used to defame her reputation and destroy her power over the King. Even so, the mystery over her motive doesn’t lessen her guilt of the deaths or the pity for why she turned to cruelty in the first place.

The Shepard Theatre production is a showcase for lead actress Jessie Komitor, who handles her role as the doomed Countess with deft skill. She commands the stage each scene in which she appears, quickly eclipsing the other actors. I give credit to Andrew Rothkin, who plays both her tyrannical husband of convenience, Ferenc Nadasdy and her beautician-physician Pataky. He made such vastly different choices for each character I had to check my program to make sure I was watching the same man. Mr. Fried’s words would have benefitted from tighter direction. The men were not as clear as the women in what they wanted; their scenes without Erzsébet present tended to drag. The multiple concepts of powerful men conspiring to take down a powerful woman, a powerful woman using her wiles to destroy weaker women, even how Erzsébet became obsessed with young and beauty, seemed under-realized. Several moments where life-shattering truths are discovered go by without impact, and a mirror-trick that is conceptually clever was clumsily executed.

It must be said that Blood Privilege is very smart and very funny. Mr. Fried writes with a dry wit that had me laughing in my seat, although most often times alone. The actors did their best to catch those moments, especially J. B. Alexander as the monarchy-influenced judge Lorand Sigray, so perhaps I ought to blame a typical American audience for missing all the light moments built into this dark tale.

If you can catch Blood Privilege for its remaining run through February 24th, I highly recommend it. I certainly hope his British audiences in their upcoming London engagement will appreciate this show as much as I did. Tickets for Blood Privilege are available at Brown Paper Tickets.

Mark Binet as Count Cuyorgy Thurzo, Jessie Komitor as  Countess Elizabeth Bathory. (Photo courtesy of Don Fried.)Jessie Komitor as Countess Elizabeth Bathory, John  D'Arcangelo as King Matthias, (facing away from camera) Mark Binet as Count  Cuyorgy Thurzo. (Photo courtesy of Don Fried.)

Click images to enlarge.


Play: threeandahalfstars Blood Privilege Cover



About The Author
Karin Crighton
Staff Writer | Lunatic
Karin doesn't know anything about movies, but has a lot of time and opinions to yell into the void. When she's not directing plays in and around NYC, she's watching every horror movie on every streaming service. And probably talking to a cat.
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