Flowers in the Attic always had the opportunity to be a great play. In planning stages for over a decade , it was only this year a script was delivered to fans – and initially the reaction was negative.
Adapted by Andrew Neiderman , it seemed to sensationalise the incest , diminish the spirit of the story and demoralise the characters beloved by many.
When it was announced the play would finally World Premiere in New Orleans in August 2015, fans were initially wary.
However, they hadnt counted on the man hired to undertake the project – Christopher Bentivegna.
Christopher, chosen personally by Neiderman, has had the mammoth task of not only bringing the story to life on stage but also to preserve the legacy of the novel , creating a beautiful, haunting and truly sensational representation of this iconic attic story.
Here he speaks to Attic Secrets of the most controversial aspects amongst fans of the changes and representations in the script , the need for certain changes and how his own love of VCA inspired his interpretation.
The Xmas Wine
“The scene where Corrine actually brings them the wine on Christmas Eve is actually a great scene too. The whole scene starts with Cathy ‘mad dancing’ to Vivaldi’s “Winter” from The Four Seasons to a live record on a record player, and then plays out with the record still playing as Corrine reveals to them that they can watch the ball, tries to tempt Cathy with her expensive jewelry, and gives them wine as a ‘special gift’. It’s a great scene.
Is this ‘supposed’ to be the reason for their sexuality? I would say no. I would say it only served to make them more uninhibited. The grandmother punished them but only in the narrator’s comments; the narrator telling us that she made them get on their hands and needs and beg God for forgiveness. The next day she catches Cathy in her undergarments about to take a bath and that’s when she’s had enough and makes her cut off all her hair.
I know that many fans had reservations about this scene, but dramatically, for a live theatrical version, and directed with care, it works beautifully and has left the audience breathless. I like that Neiderman added this. Dramatically, the play needs it as it all unfolds.
On the “Strip Tease” Scene
“That moment cannot be about a ‘striptease’ for the sake of just being a striptease…it is about their raw nerves becoming more and more exposed as they suffer more and more abuse, about how the surface of their lives are so impossibly ugly being locked in that attic and losing their love for their mother that they must begin to strip away that surface and find their strength inside…how Cathy has no one to see the ‘real her’ anymore, except for Christopher and how she needs him near her, flesh to flesh, to remind her that she truly still IS that beautiful Catherine Doll that she has always been, despite how the attic has begun changing her into someone she does not recognize. It is about burgeoning love and romance…however sad and fated that romance may be. In this moment, I truly believe she just needs someone to see her…to truly see her.
The music is actually a live record that plays on stage (Scott Joplin’s ‘Solace’). The repetition of the music to me represents the growing tension and the repetitiveness of life in the attic which has manifested in their turning to one another in a way that is beyond the boundaries of brother and sister. It also represents the cyclical nature that their relationship will always take as they fight their feelings moving into adulthood, come back to one another, fight their feelings, struggle with acceptance from others and ultimately reach the end of their struggle as they live out their lives as the soulmates that they are.”
On Cory s death scene
Is Christopher holding the grandmothers hand ?!
“Yup. Holding her hand. The magic of interpretation in a live adaptation. People do surprising things when they’re three dimensional characters living and breathing in front of you. It’s exciting.
Like, it’s not a play with a prequel so you have to provide character arcs that are interesting and satisfying within the framework of that specific interpretation of the story. I didn’t have Olivia act in any way that I didn’t think she could potentially act based on a full analyzation of her character…particularly from Garden of Shadows. For me, as a fan, I felt touched that in this production our Olivia allowed that ONE moment of intimacy when it was something that I know she truly wanted deep in her heart. It allowed for a more fully realized characterization when you only have two hours and not five books.”
On the “Comfort Sex” scene
The comfort sex scene was meant to be a part of a complete connected dramatic sequence, underscored with music, starting at the moment where Chris asks the grandmother to carry Cory down and dares to touch her hand.
The sequence continues from there with dramatic shifts in emotion until it culminates with Christopher and Cathy succumbing to their passions in order to survive to the next moment.
The comfort is layered with their confusing and growing sexual feelings for one another and because they are both so emotionally weak in that moment they lose themselves in one another.
The moment is played sensitively and tenderly perhaps even translated to be a direct result of the abuse they have suffered….making them more victims than just two horny teenagers.
The music abruptly ends before the sexual interaction begins leaving both actors completely exposed and vulnerable in the sudden silence.
On AtticSecrets Support :
“Mostly, what makes me proud is remembering how resistant the most ardent fans were about this play….how they thought it was impossible to produce it while still being able to honor the spirit found within V.C. Andrews’ original novel. The fact that the members here started to believe in me, understood my love for V.C. Andrews and my goal for this play, trusted my intentions…that has meant so much to me and I hope to you all as well. No matter what happens with this play in the future, NOTHING can change the fact that the very first production of it was done with love, respect, honor, care, and reverence toward Virginia’s spirit. WE, the fans, finally were part of the V.C. Andrews legacy in a way that can never be taken back. Never.
Someone involved needed to LOVE Virginia Andrews….relate to her work….have been touched by her work….have been moved and inspired by her work….That was the ONLY way that the interpretation of her novels into other mediums would honor her memory in the way it deserves to be.
You all inspired me and kept me happy and sane during all of this. It was the most wonderful few months of my life, but there was a lot of pressure and stress and exhaustion involved to honor this iconic story and do the absolute best job I could. This was like a little refuge for me. Thank YOU all.”
Flowers in the Attic : The Stage Play has gathered rave reviews due to the hard work of Christopher and all of the cast and crew involved.
Thanks to them the story has reached a wider audience and shown the hauntingly beautiful, complex story that fans always knew was there.
Personally id like to thank Christopher for allowing me to take part in this journey , from pre production in April right up to closing night.
For the many many nights , discussing in depth fans concerns vs directors interpretation and teaching me that a script alone does not equal the final production.
For giving me sneak peeks 😉
For giving us exclusive photos and info , keeping us up to date.
For access to the wonderful cast for
some truly amazing interviews.
But mostly for his truly passionate soul he poured into this play and restoring my faith in the potential this play had.
Artwork and photos by Christopher Bentivegna except the “comfort sex” artwork created by Julianne Hannes using Christopher Bentivegna s photography.