Like Gwen Stefani circa “Just a Girl”—only homicidal and clad in Victorian dress—the Lizzie Borden of rock opera Lizzie
is a foot-stomping, hair-flinging rebel who can rock out with the best of them. Never mind that the real-life Borden was believed to be homely and less-than-bright: Here she’s a redheaded firecracker in a turquoise dress with an ax (heh) to grind. She may be deranged, but she’s got good motive for hacking her father and stepmother to bits. While Lizzie
’s attempts at narrative-building and character development prove mostly thin, its punk- and metal-inspired songs are a deliciously loud blend of camp, gore, profanity and tenderness. These four Portland Center Stage performers take every confrontational power stance possible, unleash primordial wails a la Led Zeppelin and seductively caress the onstage scaffolding. That scaffolding quite obviously recalls prison bars, and as in Chicago
’s “Cell Block Tango,” Borden’s victims had it coming: The show makes Lizzie’s father out to be a sexually abusive miser who prioritized his second wife over his daughters. (Andrew Borden was indeed a tightfisted undertaker, but there’s scant evidence he molested either daughter.) It also imagines a lesbian relationship between Lizzie and her neighbor. Here’s the thing, though: As much as a liberal-arts student might gleefully “problematize” the liberties that Lizzie
takes, as a vehicle for a powerful quartet of women to belt out anthems of rebellion and retribution, it’s pretty damn fun. As Lizzie, Mary Kate Morrissey is like a marionette operated by a diabolical puppeteer, jerking around her body and bugging out her eyes. Matching Morrissey is Carrie Cimma as Bridget, the Bordens’ Irish maid: She’s a boiling cauldron of resentment, vanity and mischievousness, with high kicks to rival David Lee Roth’s. Some speculate that Bridget did the nasty deed. As played by Cimma, I certainly wouldn’t mess with her.
128 NW 11th Ave.Website: pcs.org