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Wife of Satan makes way to the Madison

November 5, 2015

by Aaron Krein

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Michael Viktor Butler, writer, director and an actor in Polina, which runs at the Madison Theatre this Friday and Saturday./Aaron Krein

“Polina,” an original play written by Michael Viktor Butler, will be showcased at the Madison Theatre on November 13th and 14th at 8 p.m. The play set in the late 1800’s depicts an undead woman, nicknamed the “wife of Satan,” who feeds on the flesh of young white male virgins. The focus of the show is on the investigation of these murders.

The story opens in North Albany, at a Victorian Gothic mansion, where a young Polish countess comes to live there with an old patron. He immediately falls in love with her because of her beauty. However, while making love, he accidently kills her. The woman, who was pregnant, was then buried while her child continued to grow inside of her.

“When the baby emerges from the womb, the baby basically eats the mother. The baby is Polina who is dead, but undead,” Butler said. Irene McMahon portrays the character of the title role.

The patron who loved Polina’s mother takes care of her but soon realizes she can only eat human flesh. Shortly after figuring this out, he begins to take the bodies of murderers who have been executed or people who have been hanged and drags them up the hill to the icehouse at the mansion. Polina’s guardian cuts up the bodies and feeds the parts to the baby. When Polina grows up, she gives birth to a living son. In the meantime, she is pursued by one of her relatives who is obsessed with her. In order to remove a family curse, this relative has to have sex with Polina. If this happens, they both will die and their souls will cross over to a non-heavenly place. Both Polina and her son escape this man by fleeing to Paris. The son becomes a famous artist who paints portraits of his mother repeatedly. Since she is undead, her spirit lives within each of the paintings. When she has to eat, she comes out of the paintings each night and preys on young white male virgins. She eventually eats their testicles.

“She has to castrate them in order to exist,” Butler said.

After each time Polina murders someone, she flees the city she’s currently at with her son and move on to the next like Budapest and Rome. They become rich by selling these paintings to old white men who later became so obsessed with the paintings that they are sent to insane asylums and later kill themselves. In the winter of 1896, Polina, a dwarf that is her servant, her son, and a mangy cat befriend another patron who loves the paintings. Then the murders start all over again in New York City and the story revolves around investigators trying to find the killer.

The play was first conceived as a novella, which Butler began writing in 1974 and was later published years later in 2013. After popular demand, he reconstructed the story into a play made specifically for the Madison Theatre audience.

“Everybody said ‘do Polina.’ It’s everybody’s favorite, so I did,” Butler said.

He was always interested in late 19th century art and literature and studied the latter in college. He’s been influenced by the decadent movement and a movement in France called Nostalgie de la boue, which means “nostalgia for the mud.” This play is set within this period.

Butler has compared the creepy and stylistic elements of the play to TV shows like “American Horror Story,” “Fargo,” and “Penny Dreadful.”

“It’s a new way to look at creepy things like horror but at the same time there’s something kind of funny about it,” Butler said. “My work seems to appeal to hip, cool, gay, ‘just with it’ young people which I’m grateful for.”

Apart from being the writer and director, Butler also plays 10 different roles throughout the show. People who work with Butler on stage and behind the scenes truly appreciate his knowledge of different artistic fields.

“Michael is what would be called a true renaissance man because he has so many talents in so many areas of the arts and he’s a master at them all,” said Liz Lynch, the show’s producer. She is in charge of handling all parts of production and making sure everything on and off stage runs smoothly. Lynch has previously worked with Butler in other collaborations over their 15-year friendship.

“As an actress I want to deliver his vision, working with the directors and the writers, I try to portray what they want to be portrayed,” said McMahon. This is her first time working with Butler and she fell in love with the character of Polina after reading the script.

“The costumes have been so inspirational to me to step into character,” said McMahon. “I really feel that the costumes charge and help to create and speak a lot about the character.”

There are also two technical assistants that work on the sounds and lights. Those who attend should expect to see explosions, laser effects, smoke, fog, and even some “crazy” organ pipe music and percussion. Erica Johnson also serves as the show’s puppeteer.

“I love YouTube and all that other stuff too but nothing really compares to a night in the theatre, to a live performance because every single performance is different no matter what,” said Lynch. “It’s not just the energy of the people on stage but the audience complying with it. So you’re all really in the play together and that’s what makes it exciting and fun.”

The uniqueness of “Polina” is something that Butler hopes will help make it stand out and encourage people from the area to see it.

“I don’t think Albany has ever seen any thing like it,” Butler said. “I know for a fact they haven’t seen a play about somebody who castrates young male virgins. Never.” -30-

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