Patrick Hamilton

The Thrill Kill Cult: enough ‘Rope’

Bag&Baggage's revival of a famous 1929 thriller leaves 'em hanging on Patrick Hamilton's words


Rope, Patrick Hamilton’s 1929 psycho-thriller of a play now knocking ’em dead at Bag&Baggage in Hillsboro, begins with the charming and affable pair Wyndham and Granillo. You never meet a sociopath you don’t like, at first. They’re students at Oxford: two well-groomed petty aristocrats in tailored suits, the medium haircut, buffed, shined, and whistled Florsheim shoes, and the brisk posture of purpose. It’s Britain between the wars, I and II, when the delicate crucible of tradition and history are going to collide.

Their apartment boasts a wireless radio, full bar, and antiques collected for their curio cabinets from travels abroad, including a stuffed and posed armadillo. It’s an odd collection that makes a painting of the end of the British Empire: their personal museum is a kind of theft and ramshackle display of power, without connection. The attachment is in the owning. In the center of their apartment is a large wooden chest, the top held closed by a heavy padlock. There is also a grandfather clock, which keeps a steady time and adds to the audience’s anxiety.

Party time in Patrick Hamilton land: dead charming. Photo: Casey Campbell

Party time in Patrick Hamilton land: dead charming. Photo: Casey Campbell

Wyndham, as played by Trevor Jackson, cuts a lithe figure reminiscent of the poet W.B. Yeats: the overly thin but figurative messenger with the sometimes tousled black hair. Granillo (Nathan Dunkin) is the staunch, pouty-faced, old guard Englishman, hiding behind the image of the Tory Party to secure his deviance. It’s apparent they share a living space. Very soon we realize that Wyndham and Granillo share much more, and a tug-of-war is going on: Granillo is the conscience, Wynham is the action. They sit side by side, but Wyndham is the man of the house, winning all the arguments and putting Granillo, as a caricature of the past, in his place. They have shared a bed, but not much more, as we assume. Granillo tries for affection, to at the very least hold a hand. Wyndham denies him, always purposeful, always cutting to the chase.


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