Donald Fowler’s wildly sinister production Creep (the Very, Very Sad and Unfortunately True and Completely Fabricated Tale of Jack the Ripper), playing through Sunday, October 25 at Addison’s WaterTower Theatre, is a rare spectacle.
As the declamatory title explains, it deconstructs the usual lore of Victorian England’s most infamous killer; however, it also delivers a musical dense with horror and mystery — and humor. And, unlikely as it may sound, the hybrid piece works deftly and deeply while revolving around a puzzling array of psychic disorders, including murder (of course), sexual compulsion and more than a wee bit of craziness.
It’s a potboiler; moreover, if the subject matter resonates as components of a Greek play, you’re right on track. In fact, the scenes of murder are reminiscent of Furies descending upon victims with the chthonic zeal of a Euripides play.
An online blurb about Fowler’s piece notes that it defies simple synopsis. So true. This is an apt observation on many counts, one of which is the fact that Creep swirls in concentric spheres around bawdy hookers, gentrified townsfolk, bar scenes and a piano teacher with a man-crush on “Jack,” but not the Ripper, as we discover late in the performance. The audience is kept guessing until the end about any revelation of who the killer might be. And, to not divulge any plot spoilers, I’ll merely observe that there’s lots of bloodlettin’ and throat slittin’ that takes place — and the ending scene leaves theater-goers in the midst of a vastly malevolent landscape of reversals and revenge, not to mention imaginative power.
Fowler, who also manages Knox-Henderson boutique Nest, has noted that the inspiration for the piece began in Paris when he saw a woman sleeping on a park bench while leaves fell upon her. Said scene sounds sophisticated and cap “R” Romantic — however, who could have guessed that it would eventually rupture into an exuberant melodrama?
Lastly, it would be a failure to not mention the solid performances on the part of the Creep’s cast of actors/singers. They deliver humorous lines with perfect timing and much of the musical talent is absolutely soaring. One particular composition, sung by “the piano teacher,” aka “Christian,” aka actor Daniel Rowan, left the audience applauding with rapturous zeal.
Additionally, the set is marvelously done and conveys moody and smoky intrigue; in other words, it makes for a thoroughly apt setting for a piece about “the Ripper.” Creep is deeply affecting and fraught with intrigue and ambiguity that keeps the audience engaged until — and throughout — the final minutes of the production. The whole experience is akin to witnessing a cosmic battle via time travel. And speaking of travel: Make the trek to Addison, dine at one of the hundreds of nearby restaurants and enjoy the luxury of a New York-ish evening without having to drive to DFW and endure a TSA pat-down.
You’ll discover there’s soaring talent right here at home. Kudos are in order for Donald Fowler and his slyly funny and ambitious work about a desolately cruel but highly compelling topic.