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Victorian adventure: Love stories play out in Ditmas Park home

Paired up: In the immersive play “Consumption,” which takes place in various locations in the 19th century home in Ditmas Park, Devin Burnam and Tracy Weller play five different couples through the ages.
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They’re playing house!

A pair of actors will play five romantic couples roaming the hallways, parlors, and ballroom of a Victorian house in Ditmas Park. “Consumption,” opening on Nov. 9 at the Beverley Social Club, stars Tracy Weller and Devin Burnam, who will use the different spaces of the 19th-century house to immerse the audience in five different tales, including one based on the macabre story of a Florida doctor who preserved the body of his patient after she died of tuberculosis, and kept it as his “companion.”

Weller heard the grisly tale on the radio show “This American Life”, and approached Burnam about using the Florida doctor’s story in a narrative about the rocky nature of love.

“The second that I heard this story I knew I had another project to do immediately,” Weller said.

Burnam wrote the play and adapted it to use the spaces in the Victorian house. As the action moves from the front parlor to the ballroom, it transports the audience into the story, according to Weller.

“I’m not very interested in making theater in theaters, I’m interested in creating something much more intimate where you enter another realm,” the Manhattan actor said. “A house automatically puts you in a very intimate experience, the structure itself has its own life and history.”

The production team looked at several spaces in Manhattan, but none offered the space and freedom that the Beverley Social Club has, said Weller.

“I think that this specific space allowed the play to blossom, it really helped us to explode the play. So many other spaces we had to pull in the reins a little bit — this wasn’t the case here,” she said.

The house, built in the 1880s, has served many purposes over the years. It was a speakeasy during Prohibition, and has also been the headquarters of the Brooklyn Democratic Club, a public library, and a synagogue, before it was bought in 2017 by Borough Park native Bruce Lee Gross and his wife Elizabeth Kaczmarczyk, who converted the upper floor into a bed and breakfast and offer the ground floor for private events.

The ground floor of the building will accommodate five very different stories, including tales of the necrophiliac Florida doctor, two stoned teenagers, a showbiz marriage on the rocks, and a fortune teller, along with a lost episode of the 1950s series “Dragnet,” according to Weller.

“You will experience it, for example, as a funeral parlor, with a memorial service. You will sit on the staircase with these teenagers as they talk. You will also experience it as a cruise ship, a television studio, and a tuberculosis sanitarium,” she said.

Weller and Burnam will change characters rapidly, shifting from teenagers to suburban married couple in moments, according to Weller.

“All you need to do is turn around, put down the joint, and put on your apron and hand your husband a martini,” she said.

The play is immersive, but the audience will not get roped into the action, said Weller.

“We push boundaries in many respects, but not in terms of feelings of safety. It’s intimate but there’s no trespassing of any kind. We are never intrusive in any way,” she said.

“Consumption” at Beverley Social Club (1016 Beverley Rd., between Coney Island Avenue and Stratford Road in Ditmas Park, www.mason.holdings/consumption). Nov. 9–Dec. 8; Wed–Sat at 8 pm. $25.

Reach reporter Kevin Duggan at (718) 260–2511 or by e-mail at kduggan@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @kduggan16.
Updated 12:24 pm, November 8, 2018
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