The Speakeasy Is Our Dollhouse and The Actors Are Our Dolls
Buy Tickets Now
A true tale of bootlegging, mafia, infidelity, and murder set in Prohibition-era New York City. The speakeasy is our dollhouse and the actors are our dolls.
"My grandparents, the Spanos, came to this country from Italy during the Roaring Twenties. They opened two speakeasies in the Bronx: one masquerading as a bakery, and the other one a secret nightclub. Shortly after Prohibition ended, my grandfather was shot and killed on the street in Manhattan. My grandmother was pregnant with my mother at the time, and upon hearing the news of the murder, she went into a coma. When her husband's coffin was dropped on the way up the narrow stairs of their apartment building, my grandmother woke up -- and went into labor. On the same day, my mother was born in one room of the small Bronx apartment while her father's body was laid out in a coffin in another.
Nobody still living in my family knows why my grandfather was shot. Nothing was known about the killer, his motive, or a trial. My grandmother took these secrets to her grave. And so, over the past two years, I have been researching this complicated mystery." - Cynthia von Buhler
To better explore her grandfather's murder and events leading up to it, Von Buhler has created an elaborate speakeasy dollhouse set in her art studio. There is a plush secret nightclub, a bakery, a pre-war apartment, a bootlegging bathroom, and a morgue. These sets contains minute and authentic crime scene details that can be examined from every angle.
To take it one step further, the artist has now created an immersive theatrical experience to go along with the sets and her own investigation. The play stages these events in a historic Lower East Side speakeasy set up to mirror the dollhouse sets. The actors aren't visually distinguished from the audience, so both become players in the life-sized speakeasy dollhouse.
Was Frank Spano guilty, or did his fatal trouble arise because he was innocent? Did he have a connection to the infamous mobster Dutch Schultz? Who was the man who committed the murder, and what became of him and his family? And just how corrupt was the government? Von Buhler (The Time Traveling Revealer of Truth) is the lone audience member, watching the interactions as fodder for her work. Revelations and observations will be used in the Speakeasy Dollhouse graphic novel series she is working on in conjunction with the play. Dress the part, and you become part of the family - and book!
Expect to witness a murder, a birth, and many things in between, all while sipping cocktails from teacups and enjoying cannolis fresh from the Spanos' Bakery. Mingle with flapper floozies, infamous mobsters, corrupt magistrates, and questionable cops. Live prohibition-era music by The Howard Fishman Quartet. From decor to music to characters, it's a mind-blowing trip back in time.
A documentary on Speakeasy Dollhouse is in the works. Find out more about it HERE.
The Discovery Channel have been filming and interviewing Cynthia about her play for their show Oddities.
Gothamist interview with Cynthia von Buhler.
Read reviews of the show HERE and HERE.