Psychological Thriller

Psychological Thriller

‘Butcher Holler’ ‘a poetic, hallucinatory experience’


When Fayetteville audiences sit down to watch Aztec Economy’s production of Casey Wimpee’s “Butcher Holler Here We Come,” they’ll be watching a well-honed, cohesive piece of theater that has been around the block a time or two.

The show debuted at the Cincinnati Fringe Festival in 2013 and, since then, has toured the country with the same five members of the original cast (with some occasional substitutions due to scheduling conflicts). It tends to receive enthusiastic reviews wherever it goes. When performed in New York — home base for the theater company — NY TheatreScene said of the show, “A vulnerable and exciting experience. Committed and powerful performances. One grand hallucination!”

“The show is the story of five coal miners who are trapped in a cave collapse in the early 1970s in West Virginia,” says producer and cast member Cole Wimpee. “There’s no exposition; it kind of begins with the crash itself.”

Wimpee says the play uses heightened language, regional colloquialisms and mine jargon in a kind of poetic combination he calls “almost a working man’s Shakespeare.”

But, he says, the themes are pretty universal — especially in today’s political climate.

“Thematically, the thing that I think is so interesting — and the reason we are going to continue to take the show around the country for the next few years — is that it’s a story that speaks to a lot of American culture, particularly the politics of environment and union politics,” says Wimpee. “In these coal mine communities, they are isolated people. The people who worked in the mines with you were your brother-in-law and everyone you knew from high school. They’re very faith-based, insular communities, and, beyond the surface politics of the play, the fascinating thing about the story is that it examines the cross-sections of politics and interpersonal politics: secrets, grudges, memories. All of these things come boiling to the surface. Although the characters themselves are struggling with a lack of food, oxygen and an uncertainty about whether they’re going to survive, the real threat is their relationships with each other and the subconscious energies that start unraveling in this crisis situation.”

Wimpee says that the relatively small size of Backspace, the venue where the company is performing in Fayetteville, is beneficial to creating the heightened sense of tension in the psychological thriller. It allows the audience to feel as though they, too, are in a cave with the trapped miners. The original performance of the show was improvisational and experimental, and the show retains that sense of unconventionality five years later.

“We put the audiences in an immersive format,” says Wimpee. “As soon as I saw Backspace, I thought, ‘This is perfect for this show.’ We don’t use any lights; it’s only lit by headlights on the actors’ faces.”

Actors will roam around the performance space, mingling with the audience.

“Many audiences have been quite surprised,” says Wimpee. “They’re placed in the anxiety and confusion of what is happening next. There are transitions that are in total darkness. It’s almost a poetic, hallucinatory experience but with some humor laced in the play.”

Wimpee says the configuration of the audience seating is still being calculated but encourages those who are interested in seeing the show to purchase tickets early.

“We will have limited seating,” he says. “So it’s going to be this kind of secret show, like a tree falling in the woods. If you want tickets, you should get them in advance. That’s the bittersweet thing about it — as happy as I am to share this with Fayetteville and the people I know, I also know there’s a lot of people who may not get to see it.”


‘Butcher Holler Here We Come’

WHEN — 8 p.m. Feb. 2-4

WHERE — Aztec Economy Theatre Company at Backspace, 541 W. Meadow St. in Fayetteville

COST — $15 in advance; $20 cash at the door


Categories: Theater