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TOAD HALL PRODUCTIONS

Toad Hall Productions returns with ‘Murderess’

Lizzie Borden tops the list of featured killers

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ToadHall productions’ latest offering is "Murderess," by Anne Bertram, “an intriguing play composed of six monologues by six historical women suspected of or charged with murder,” said ToadHall founder and play director Ken Forestal.

Bertram describes the women in her play as “notorious killers from American history (who) reveal their secrets in a suite of monologues.”

The most famous of the women is Lizzie Borden (1860-1927), who was charged with the August 1892 axe murders of her father and stepmother in Fall River, Massachusetts.

The other characters are Laura Fair, who killed her married lover in San Francisco in 1870; Margaret Hossack, who killed her abusive husband in Warren County, Iowa in 1900; Celia Bryan, who killed her father, who was also her owner, in Jacksonville, Florida in 1848; Jane Toppan, who killed at least 11 patients at two Boston hospitals and as a private nurse before she was caught in 1901; and Belle Gunness, who killed at least 13 people in Illinois and Indiana 1903-08.

Toppan, nicknamed "Jolly Jane," confessed to 31 murders and said her ambition was to kill more people than anyone else ever had.

A Norwegian by birth, Gunness buried more than a dozen murder victims, including a headless adult female, at the family farmhouse in La Porte, Indiana.

Fair was arrested almost immediately after killing the well-respected lawyer Alexander P. Crittenden. She was so agitated at the police station following her arrest that she was given a sedative in a glass of water. Instead of drinking it, she took a bite out of the glass.

The cast is comprised of Amy Lynn Whipple as Lizzie Borden, Nora Brown as Belle Gunness, Nancy Klein Tafoya as “Jolly” Jane Topman, Erica James as Celia Bryan, Debbie Jo Felix as Laura Fair and Erin Wendorf as Margaret “Ma” Hossack.

Nancy Sorrells is the presenter, whom playwright Bertram describes as “equal parts Vincent Price and Gwyneth Paltrow.”

Performances are 7 p.m. Saturdays, Feb. 22 and 29, and 2 p.m. Sundays, Feb. 23 and March 1, at First Christian Church, 1809 El Paseo Road, directly across El Paseo from Las Cruces High School. Forestal said there will be additional performances announced at a later date.

Admission is by donation.

The play premiered in Minneapolis, where Bertram lives, in 2011.

Founded in 2014, ToadHall has previously presented “Pericles,” “Medea,” “Agnes of God,” “Van Gogh,” “Bonhoffer,” and “A Promise of Roses,” all directed by Forestal, who also wrote “A Promise of Roses.” The company has also produced multiple seasons of house concerts at Forestal’s home.

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