For an actor, portraying murderous gangster Whitey Bulger is a dream role. For a local, who knows the evil tales surrounding the monster, it’s a thorny task and emotional exercise.
On Wednesday, at the Wilbur, Taunton character actor Paul Kandarian will play Bulger in a dynamic, multimedia live stage show spun off from the smash true crime podcast “Saints, Sinners & Serial Killers.”
“In no way is this meant to glorify Whitey,” Kandarian told the Herald. “He took so many lives and touched so many others because of what he did. He was a scumbag and I’m not trying to glorify that. I’m trying to present a piece of history.”
Playing Bulger offers other challenges too. Much of Bulger’s life was lived in the shadows. There is very little footage of how talked, walked or acted outside a prison cell.
“He was largely a myth, a legend, this figure that people knew about but there aren’t a lot of digital memories of this guy,” Kandarian said. “Because it was his way or a shallow grave, he seemed to be simmering with this attitude, with this chip on his shoulder, so that’s how I play him.”
“Saints, Sinners & Serial Killers” will dig into authors Casey Sherman and Dave Wedge’s series of bestselling books on Bulger, the Boston Strangler and the murder of John Lennon (written with legendary thriller scribe James Patterson). Sherman and Wedge will lead the audience through a series of stories, while an ensemble cast will perform chilling scenes from their true crime tomes.
“We said, ‘Let’s bring the podcast to the live stage but let’s make it a really immersive, multi-sensory experience,’” Wedge said. “We thought the way to do that was to bring in actors and mix them in with video, audio and photos.”
Crime scene pictures, live narration, music and more will blend with on stage dialogue culled from the actual words of these infamous killers.
Becoming any of the characters in “Saints Sinners & Serial Killers” is a tall order — dark and terrifying. But those involved in the production admit portraying Whitey is on a whole different level. Kandarian references his final monologue as the Boston mobster and the almost wistful words the murder wrote in a letter about having a great life.
“I’m thinking, ‘Good god, how can this man think he had a great life? He screwed up so many people’s lives,’” the actor said. “Presenting Whitey like that was a hell of a challenge and a hell of a responsibility. … Some actors don’t want to play bad guys or unsavory characters, but I love it. I love to stretch, love the challenge. ”
For tickets and more details, go to thewilbur.com.
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