'This will be a first for us," says Craig Miller, Artistic Director of Santa Rosa's Sixth Street Playhouse. "I don't believe there's been anyone drawn and quartered on our stage before!"
Drawing and quartering, for those unfamiliar with such arcane forms of medieval punishment, describes the process of chaining a prisoner's arms and legs to four different horses, each sent off in a different direction, effectively dividing the victim into four separate pieces.
It was, in its day, quite obviously a death sentence. In the opening moments of Kite's Book: Tales of an 18th Century Hitman, a young convict stands before his accusers, moments away from his own drawing and quartering, relating how his adventurous life has landed him in such an undesirable position.
Then a lot of sword fighting happens.
Says Miller, "I would say that, for those who remember the days of the Actors Theater, Kite's Book is more of an Actors Theater type of show than much of what we've been presenting over the last few years. It's grittier. It a little darker, and the humor is . . . well, that's pretty dark too. Kite's Book is probably best described as a contemporary play that just happens to be set in London of the 1700s, when people's notion of justice was a bit . . . intense."
Written by Robert Caisley and directed by Miller (with rousing fight choreography by Marty Pistone), Kite's Book is described by the director as a swashbuckling, action-packed adventure about government corruption, human imperfection and the ways class distinctions inform our notions of punishment and justice.
"Poverty leads to crime," Miller says. "And crime leads to punishment. And fair punishment is determined by how far you are above the poverty level. It was true hundreds of years ago—and it's still true today."
Caisley's play—inspired in part by the sensational televised murder trials of the 1990s—follows killer-for-hire Harry Kite (Rahman Dalrymple), who has his own sense of justice, determining whom he is willing to dispatch and who he isn't.
"Harry Kite," says Dairyimple of the colorful character he plays, "definitely has a strange and bizarre moral compass. To me, he's like an 18th century version of the TV character Dexter. Like him, Kite has a blind spot. He hasn't delved into all the corners of why he is the way he is. '
"But in the course of the play," he chuckles, "Kite is forced to look hard into some of those corners."
'Kite's Book: Tales of an 18th Century Hitman' runs Thursday-Sunday through October 23 at Sixth Street Playhouse. 52 W. Sixth Street, Santa Rosa. Thursday-Saturday at 8pm; 2pm matinees, Sundays. $15-$32. 707.523.4185.