‘Band of the Black Hand’ Explores Murder and Politics

Friends and family gathered for the preview of the Connecticut Repertory Theater’s “Band of the Black Hand,” a devised theater production centering around a moral dilemma involving murder, politics and investigations, on Thursday night.

Written by Nick Ryan in conjunction with Split Knuckle Theatre and coordinated by Greg Webster and Bart P. Roccoberton, Band of the Black Hand fits into the world of Film Noir.

Pursuing a missing person’s case, Private Dick Jack Stone gets caught in a gang war in Capitol City. He goes through chases, murders, attacks and secret meetings throughout the whole play.

Though the stage didn’t have any complexities in set-up – a few doorways, a couple of desks and telephone were some of them – it relied heavily on detail in effects, especially interesting lighting from strobes and their resulting shadows.

When a radio played, there were shadows of the people whose voices came through the radio on a screen in the back. In small ways like this, shadows would add dimension to the play. Sound effects were also used to enhance the production. Voices echoing and fading away emulated the haze of drunkenness, then loud voices from the actors on stage forced a rude awakening.

One major facet of the show was perspective – audience members were able to see what Jack would also see. While he walked the streets of Capitol City, the posters he passed showed up on the screen in the background. Even brutality was displayed in this way, although there was no blood on the stage.

“Things have been changing every day since we started,” Shanyn Strub, stage manager and an 8th semester theater studios major, said. “This is devised theater, so we came in with a version of a script, but the actors don’t have a concrete script.”

She explained that in a devised theater production like this, no one is strictly directed and actors have more freedom with their lines. They were given characters, but decisions about the script were created as they went along. Though it was a lot of fun, it was also the most work Strub has done in her years as a part of the CRT.

Devised theater, also called collaborative creation, places more importance on the abilities of actors and actresses to create their own show. The stage sets in Band of the Black Hand were moved by the actors and actresses in the production. At one point, some used umbrellas and sound effects to emulate pigeons in the city without using real pigeons.

Yashee Munshi, a 4th semester physiology and neurobiology major and usher for CRT, saw a mystery production by the CRT for the first time that night.

“I’ve really liked murder mystery novel and it was so interesting to see it right in front of me.”

Band of the Black Hand will perform from March 26 – April 4. Opening night is March 27 at 8 p.m. in the Studio Theater.

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