The New York Times:
“Wrenching and visually eloquent”
“Isaac James Byrne’s high-energy production is by turns earnest and campy, wrenching and visually eloquent…dramaturgical jambalaya, flavored with the full-throated music of Jacques Brel”
“Bare-chested in a crown of thorns, he hangs out unseen in the kitchen, affably clutching a mug of coffee in hands with puncture wounds. It’s a comical image, but there’s force behind it. He would love to help these people, if only they’d realize he was there.” Laura Collins Hughes, The New York Times
“Darkly humorous. Deliciously ghoulish.” Elisabeth Vincentelli, The New York Times
“It’s an irresistibly dramatic scenario: siblings who split between the Union and Confederate sides in a violently divided country, enacting a tragedy about political conspiracy as a real-life plot bursts into flames around them.
Legitimately upsetting.” Laura Collins Hughes, The New York Times
New York Magazine:
New York Theatre Review:
“In addition to her elegant use of metaphor, Sara Fellini employs a cadre of priests to examine hypocrisy, greed, guilt, denial and faith, and a sacristan (played by Fellini herself) to foil them all. Questions are raised; secrets are revealed in time, each revelation well earned and well-balanced, even as the play tilts violently, often just shy of capsizing. The upshot is a thrilling and dangerous ride. Her scenes are well paced and almost never bloated; her monologues, particularly one half-nightmare half-feminist-opus, are worthy of filling audition rooms across the country; her schizophrenic sense of humor might not be for all tastes, but those who are tickled by the idea of a man in full arm casts making a sandwich that he will never be able to eat will be very happy in this room. Fellini’s sense of the ridiculous and Isaac James Byrne’s ability to stage the absurd keeps the play buoyant even while it descends into its feverish finale
Performances are above par across the board, with a particularly intriguing job from Samuel Adams, who plays Father Yves, a young, charismatic priest who acts (for a time) as our moral center. [Sara Fellini] gives a tremendous performance as Maeve Shourd, though she sometimes overpowers her scene partners early in the play, eyes wide with expectation and daring before the stakes seem high enough to warrant such intensity. Adam Belvo’s Father Nathan Shourd, older brother to Fellini’s Maeve, is an intricately drawn character played with understated honesty; from his entrance his sin literally clings to him in the shape of [Peter Oliver], whose wordless performance of the ghost of the younger brother is beautifully weighty.
These performances and Byrne’s frenetic staging (the space is very narrow so keep your toes tucked) bring a real sense of danger to the audience as plates are smashed and Jesus gets some blood on your pants, but it isPierre Marais’ turn as the enigmatic and absurdly attractive Jakamo that really forges the production’s relationship to the audience. From his opening number to his smokey silhouette presiding over the grim last supper, Jakamo is the character that infects with delight and terror both. If you are not familiar with the material, his flawless take on the songs of Jacques Brel will leave you disappointed at your taste in music.” – Corbin Went, New York Theatre Review
“Playwright Casey Wimpee is clearly a history buff, and the history in the play is spot on. The layers he creates in terms of the action that’s happening in rehearsal versus what’s happening outside in a divided nation are nuanced and interesting. Although the focus is on this intimate moment of a family’s history, he definitely also channels the excitement that surrounds their larger story.”
“One scene that is particularly satisfying is a battle of words between Junius Jr. and John Wilkes in which they toss intricate passages of Shakespeare back and forth to each other. It’s such a smart way to show a theatrical past that ties them together in ways they can’t avoid. The play also contains moments of dinner table talk that shift to more uncomfortable conversations of politics, and all the while a band of “brutes” hover just outside the family scenes representing the dark world of the closing days of the Civil War unfolding just outside the shiny lights of the Booth family drama.”
“Performed in the round, Sara Fellini’s direction is fueled by constant movement, helping to create a whirlwind of excitement that then offsets the quiet moments in a lovely way.”
“Fellini also acts as costume and props designer, along with assistant Xandra Leigh Parker, and together they’ve created beautiful, (and hipster but in a good way), costumes and props that are of a particular time but also help create the overarching vibe of the play.”
“Everyone involved in The Brutes definitely commits to that vibe, in particular, the cast, which is solid throughout. It’s difficult to call any one actor out as they really do create the story together, but in particular, Belvo is wonderful as Edwin, wrapped up in his continually growing stardom but still tortured by memories of his father, who he watched drink himself to death. And Keeney as John Wilkes beautifully captures the rising anger of a young man out of place with his family and set on a course that ultimately will end in destruction.”
“At 75 minutes, The Brutes is a whirlwind, action-packed firecracker, but at its heart, it’s the complicated relationship between siblings perched on the edge of an impending tragedy but not yet in it that really makes this play a joy to watch.” – Victoria Teague, New York Theatre Review
Read Executive Producer Adam Belvo and Artistic Director Sara Fellini’s interview with New York Theatre Review about NEC SPE / NEC METU.
New York Arts:
“The play is beautifully written, with some marvelous poetic flights, and splendidly acted by the author, Sara Fellini, and Adam Belvo. The energy and intensity of their acting is reason enough to see the play, but in addition there is the quality of the play itself. Don’t miss it.” – Michael Miller, New York Arts
“A playwright to be watched.”
“Fellini is smart, perceptive, and the kind of deep-dive researcher who benefits historical illumination. Not only does she offer well thought out characterization, but credible conjecture about the painters’ artistic choices is so engaging, it makes one want to look up unfamiliar artwork. Cinematic specificity of era and social mores provides solid context. Both subjects emerge whole, complex human beings. All this would be merely intriguing were it not for Fellini’s infectious passion. Insightful crossovers between the two pieces are like finding the coin in a plum pudding.
“Adam Belvo creates a volatile, manly, unrepentant character…The actor has talent.”
“Sara Fellini pours herself into this role with abandon. It’s clear she has skill.” – Alix Cohen, Woman Around Town
Drama Queens Reviews on THE BRUTES:
“It is challenging enough for an actor to breathe credible life into the part of an average individual. Accomplishing this in a period piece with a little Shakespearean dialogue thrown into the mix is a lofty endeavor for any thespian. This cast rose to the occasion and produced a thoroughly believable period piece.”
“Adam Belvo did an outstanding job of portraying Edwin Booth. He was unwavering in his discipline and highly effective in his delivery of the most successful of the brothers.”
“John Hardin’s complex, layered and intense portrayal of one of the most famous assassins in history, John Wilkes Booth was riveting.”
“Mick O’Brien gave a forceful, moving and dramatic portrayal of the ghost of Junius Brutus Booth.”
“Bravo to Sara Fellini for brilliantly wearing a plethora of hats for this production. She was director, costume and prop designer while effortlessly and expertly played the part of the whimsical and coquettish Asia Booth Clarke.”
While there is humor peppered throughout, this is a dark and heavy play with grave subject matter. We see some finely executed Shakespeare with snippets of a play within a play. The costumes were exquisite and well suited to the cast. The props were cleverly made and versatile. The steamer trunk was a thing of beauty… between Casey Wimpee’s script using language of a time long past coupled with the exceptional acting, it felt as if we were transported directly to the 1800’s and truly witnessing the brothers Booth and the tormented ghost of their father.” – Jen Bush, Drama Queens Reviews
“As soon as the first words were spoken we were believably and effortlessly transported back in time to a completely different era. The air seemed dustier and cool; the energy began lightly chaotic. The characters were funny and complicated from the very beginning. They almost literally grab your hand make you laugh some and then pull you through a story and the light chaos becomes loud and heavy, sprinkled with sword fights weighted with personal and political strife.
spit&vigor’s timing is great. They hand us the story of a family on the verge of divided, re-enacting the Shakespearean tale of a nation divided during a time when the nation is divided as a parable for our current … well, you get the point.”
“The powerhouse cast of Adam Belvo, J.D. Martin, Sara Fellini, Colt W. Keeney, Morgan Zipf-Meister, Eamon Murphy, Becca Musser, Pete Oliver, Xandra Leigh Parker, Harlan Short, Nicholas Thomas, and Perri Yaniv acted as a greek chorus and brought the mood and the story to great heights.”
The show, in its entirety, spoke strongly to our country’s current unrest and even the need to ignore it and dwell on the past. It dropped me off with a open, unanswered ending that is anxious and honest, reminding us that this isn’t the first time we have done this with our politics, our disagreements, our need to win.
You leave feeling rattled, contemplative and I find myself still learning and taking away from my experience. This isn’t a simple or easy show, this show is meaty and raw in its humanity and in it’s a timeliness.
This is a brave undertaking by Spit & Vigor and begs for a long dinner conversation over a stiff drink.” -Rebecca Benedict, Drama Queens Reviews
Arts Independent on THE BRUTES:
“This the story about the Booth family both in and out of the theater, was really compelling and powerful and captured its audience – adept in the bard or not. Casey Wimpee’s juxtaposition of the time periods of the death of two leaders was clever and – even today – quite uniquely done.”
“Sara Fellini did an excellent job of portraying Mrs. Asia Booth Clarke, I found her to be remarkably believable. Her character was more of a rebel and Fellini’s liberal use of flirtatiousness made for welcome laughs. Her fine direction was also apparent all through the piece as well. She lifted the piece with artistry and intrigue.”
“Samuel Adams was alluring as Seymour. Odd word to describe a man but he looked the part of the ladies’ man drenched in need-to-succeed. Adams played the sarcasm and self-assurance easily.”
“Adam Belvo, as Edwin Booth gave us a great portrayal of a troubled man. We watch him go through his recurring visions of his father making him almost a puppet.”
“His father, Junius Brutus Booth, Sr., played with aplomb by Mick O’Brien, played the alcoholic abuser to the hilt.”
“John Hardin as Booth used his beautiful voice creating his vexation towards the world and towards his family.”
“Peter Oliver stood out as a narrator and did W. Hanley was the comedic relief in this show.”
“These actors were amazing, professional and very powerful. I loved this show and would gratefully see it again. Directing, Costumes, lighting and especially acting as well as a true look at the mind of not only an actor but a murderer all add up to an interesting and intriguing time well spent in the theater.”
– Amanda Kavaja, Arts Independent
Outer-Stage on THE BRUTES:
“Casey Wimpee brings us a play that follows the once famous Booth family and their stormy relationship.”
“The show is directed by Sara Fellini who also designed costumes/props. Very impressive.”
“Sara Fellini’s casting was as stunning as her production scheme. The acting was very believable, and pulled the audience into the story.”
“Over all it was a fun and interesting night of theater.” – Jade Fernandez, Outer-Stage
“Sara Fellini and her company, spit&vigor, put on the most daring work I have seen in New York theater.
Her plays are substantial and often monumental in scope as she works through the ecstasy and torture of being an artist and a woman.
NEC SPE traces the turbulent life of Baroque painter Caravaggio as he expresses his inner fury and support for the downtrodden with celebrated works and self-inflicted wounds that prove prematurely fatal.
spit&vigor’s powerhouse executive producer, Adam Belvo, always has a well-executed intensity.
NEC METU, is an even meatier affair, indulging her fascination with horror and women whose impacts have been drastically understated. Her biography of post-Caravaggio wunderkind Artemisia Gentileschi is her most balanced effort to date.” – Eric J. Grimm, Theater Pizzazz
Her musical voice varies from timid to anguished in often surprising ways and her eyes are dangerous and exciting, especially in an intimate venue.
“With a penchant for the macabre and an electric energy coursing through the whole creative team, spit& vigor has emerged as a reliably compelling theater company, mounting works that aspire to greatness as they continually test the limits of artistic director Sara Fellini’s bountiful imagination.””Fellini is a writer with supreme vision. Her characters are the kind that actors sink their teeth into and the themes of her works are propulsive. An audience leaves knowing exactly why she has chosen this particular story with these particular characters in this particular setting. As she continues to explore her fascination with grand and troubled female leads, her scope becomes more magnificent “”I remain thrilled by spit&vigor’s creative output and I will take flawed work from them over any of the uninspired theater one often sees on New York stages.” Eric J. Grimm, Theater Pizzazz
“Tightly directed by Pat Diamond””spit&vigor tackles this intense drama by John Patrick Shanley with skill.””Belvo gives us range and shines on stage.””Fellini acts the part of the woman tormented by her sins and pains with abandonment… and, letting her hair down, fully owns Roberta’s pain and anxiety.” Eric J Grimm, Theater Pizzazz
“Tightly directed by Pat Diamond”
“spit&vigor tackles this intense drama by John Patrick Shanley with skill.”
“Belvo gives us range and shines on stage.”
“Sara Fellini’s new play In Vestments confidently goes for unholier-than-thou status in its site-specific church setting.
“Fellini’s priests are all distinct characters with compelling motivations. Disabled Father Nate (Adam Belvo) is deeply sympathetic to his parishioners, but battles addiction and a demon (Peter Oliver) that often obstructs him and keeps him immobile. Father McInerney (Carl Danielsen) is all heart and mostly poised as he faces off against the corrupt Father Falke (Ted Wold) over the direction of the church. Father Yves (Samuel Adams) drives the plot, emerging with striking blue eyes (a testament to the intimacy of the space) and gentle Cajun charm to save the decrepit church. Though Yves is seemingly the most stable of the motley crew, his charismatic demon (Pierre Marais) taunts him with Jacques Brel tunes. Adams slyly plays the young priest’s torture throughout, hiding immeasurable sadness behind a comforting grin. Director Isaac Byrne carefully maneuvers all of the characters in and out of the small space allowing for a manic but controlled atmosphere.
“A second act monologue represents Fellini’s best writing; it reveals so much about Maeve without going into specifics and highlights the dangers of being a woman and a caregiver. Her performance, fairly intense up to this point, becomes restrained and unbearably sad. Amidst moments of exhilarating weirdness, Fellini manages to balance the show with her characters’ devastating emotional truths.” Eric J Grimm, Theater Pizzazz
“Lyrical. Went’s direction is clear and sharp.” Audrey Moyce, Culturebot
Theater Is Easy:
“Wimpee has all the captivating pieces in play: Edwin (Adam Belvo, commanding) is the world-famous Booth, caught up in his own stardom and assured in his belief that he is the Booth family; John Wilkes (Colt W. Keeney, in a tinderbox of a performance) is the rebel Booth, already smuggling drugs to the Confederate Army and dripping with contempt towards the Yankee cause; and, most compellingly, Asia (Sara Fellini, delightfully engaged and engaging) is the behind-the-scenes Booth, a jack-of-all-trades thespian who stands in the shadow of both her family and her theater manager husband John Sleeper Clarke (Perri Yaniv).
“Fellini, doubling as director, produces a lively variety of stage pictures in the small in-the-round space. There’s often a sort of centrifugal force to the rehearsal scenes as Asia and her husband circle the actors, giving notes and calling out stage directions while the brothers recite. The lurking presence of four “Brutes” (Xandra Leigh Parker, Becca Musser, Morgan Zipf-Meister, and Harlan Short), bird-masked Confederates toting pistols and rifles, is successfully creepy when they’re in the background making eerie noises as John Wilkes schemes.” Dan Rubins, Theatre Is Easy
“The performances given by much of the cast are all top-notch.”
“Fellini carries the piece exceedingly well as the titular character, presenting an almost feral powder keg of a woman”
“Belvo plays [Azra Todd] with a greasy likeability that is infectious and almost redeeming given his character’s shady exploits in pornography”
“a wickedly entertaining performance by Fouche”
“the music is all beautifully performed” Zachary Conner, Theatre Is Easy
“Belvo rises to the challenge in Danny’s scariest moments, appearing as though his veins might burst as he threatens to hurt Roberta early on.”
“Fellini nails certain moments in which Roberta feels trapped by her poverty and abusive home life, alternately deepening her voice to express rage and making her voice small to convey her insignificance.”
The Garden State Journal:
“An intense, sometimes volatile, occasionally challenging in-your-face play written by performer Sara Fellini.”
“In Vestments is a perfect marriage of potent material and universal themes.”
“Adams, Belvo, Carl Danielsen and Ted Wold captivate in their respective roles, and Fellini commands this makeshift stage with some confessions of Meave’s own.”
“The heroic Joshua Rose also deserves many a plaudit for fashioning resourceful scenic and lighting design in a space not typically equipped for the arts.”
The West Side Spirit:
Read a story on IN VESTMENTS by Sara Fellini with The West Side Spirit.