Blood on the Snow: A journey back in time to Boston’s bloody beginnings

The Cast of Blood on the Snow. Photo by Justin Saglio.

Presented by The Bostonian Society
Written by Patrick Gabridge
Directed by Courtney O’Connor

June 1 – August 20, 2017
The Old State House
Boston, MA
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Review by Polly Goss

(Boston, MA) It is March 6, 1770, bloodshed, discontent and rebellion bubbles in the air. Four Bostonians lie dead on the streets outside the Council Chamber and British soldiers are held responsible. The people of Boston are sick of British rule, the soldiers and their taxes – they want them out. Inside Governor Hutchinson is faced with an impossible choice: defy his King, or defend his country? This site specific play takes the audience back in time to a forgotten night that helped shaped the course of, not only the city’s history, but the world’s. Blood on the Snow sold out at its world premiere last Spring and returns to The Old State House in Boston this summer. O’Connor’s naturalistic direction is spot on, allowing the audience to be unnoticed voyeurs alongside the table where history was made.

The British Royal Coat of Arms hangs above the entrance, reminding the audience of the ever present force of the crown, pushing the characters to submission or rebellion. Governor Hutchinson wants to obey the orders from his King, he is supported in this desire by the hardy Scottish Col. William Dalrymple (Daniel Berger-Jones) and dry witted Andrew Oliver (Ken Baltin). Dale Place’s (Governor Hutchinson) empathetic performance allows us to sympathise with the Governor’s plight. Hutchinson, unlike his fellow Bostonians, Samuel Adams (Craig Ciampa) and John Hancock (Matt Ryan), truly believes the people of the colony are protected by British rule. The clashes between Adams and Hutchinson, with Oliver’s sarcastic mutterings, add a light-hearted touch to the piece. Ciampa’s performance of Adams is particularly enjoyable, he portrays him as a man with no time for BS and a complete fish out of water, in this room of eloquent aristocrats.

Gabridge skillfully avoids making the play a self-congratulatory affair, Boston is not allowed to simply sit back and feel proud of its revolutionary heroes. A poignant moment early on reminds the audience that the freedom these ‘heroes’ called for, was not intended for everybody. Andrew, a slave, is brought into the court to give eyewitness testimony about the events of the previous night. Royall Tyler (Bill Mootos) sympathiser to the Whig cause, is the quickest to dismiss Andrew’s testimony before he has had a chance to open his mouth, declaring “them all liars and storytellers”. Gabridge subtly reminds us that the America these men will go onto create, will not be the “land of the free” it claims to be.

Laurie Bramhall’s costume design was exquisite and truly helped the modern world to slip away. Kate Burkhart set design greatly added to the authenticity of the piece. Blood on the Snow is an enjoyable period drama that brings one fateful night in the city’s history to life, in this engaging site specific production.

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