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Theatre Review: 'Normal' by Molotov Theatre Group at DC Arts Center

Elizabeth Darby, Alex Zavistovich and Brian McDermott
photo by: Kristin Jackman



By Kyle Osborne

Have you ever known someone, perhaps a relative, an old Uncle, who could tell a scary story that made you shiver? If you can imagine getting chills just from someone’s storytelling– no blood, no scary sound effects—just words—then you have a good idea how you’ll react to Normal, presented by the Molotov Theatre Group.

The play by Anthony Neilson, tells a fictionalized version of the very real Peter Kürten, who was known as the Vampire of Düsseldorf, and the Düsseldorf Ripper in 1929/1930 Germany. He killed violently and, without shame, for the sexual thrill of it all. The three character play is told through the eyes of Kürten’s attorney, played by Brian McDermott, who starts off rather wet behind the ears, and ends up having been transformed, surely for the worse, if only within his own imagination.

Alex Zavistovich plays the serial killer and, going back to the “words only” premise, scares the crap out of you with just his words and his physical presence. The fact that one is never more than a few feet from the actors accentuates the fear factor. When the lights briefly go out in the jailhouse where his attorney is interviewing him, Zavistovich’s dark outline is enough to drop the room’s temperature by a good 10 degrees. He stares into space—his eyes never blinking—whatever he’s thinking, it’s something disgusting, and something which amuses him. Of course, those things are one in the same.

And yet, we’re told that Kürten was rather charming and attractive to women. That’s easy to see. There is a handsome charisma, not unlike the Hannibal Lechter character, that makes it easy to understand why so many people willingly, in a sense, went to their deaths.

Elizabeth Darby playing Frau Kürten has a bit less to do, but is, nonetheless, integral to the play—giving us another perspective of the monster.

There is some artsy-fartsy choreography that some might find jarring, but I saw as a great way of demonstrating some violent and sexual and depraved acts without the audience actually having to see anything graphic.

The dark, small space inside the DC Arts Center fits the play like a black leather glove. You are that close to a man who has taken perhaps dozens of human lives (the actual numbers can never be truly known). And if he should make eye contact with you, it’ll be impossible not to slink down in your seat.

I learned yesterday that Normal has been Helen Hayes Awards Recommended. Let me humbly add my own recommendation. This play will stay with you after you leave the theatre—don’t you dare park in a dark alley.

Normal, presented by Molotov Theatre Group continues at the DC Arts Center through March 30th. More information and tickets are at:

Alex Zavistovich has released an amazing CD of great chestnuts with cool arrangements. Read about it here:

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