Bad Seed brings horror, murder, and family secrets to the stage

So Bad, It’s Good

A classic tale of horror, murder, and dark family secrets will be told on stage in Bad Seed, coming to Riverhead’s Vail-Leavitt Music Hall in October. Directed by Charles Calabrese and Adrienne Pellegrino of the Long Island Repertory Company, Bad Seed is an adaptation by Maxwell Anderson of William March’s novel The Bad Seed, and was a Broadway hit in 1954.

“We chose it because it’s so well-written, and our goal is to present classic plays that are not often produced,” Calabrese said. “It’s a true edge-of-your-seat thriller, like an Alfred Hitchcock film.”

Bad Seed tells the story of a seemingly perfect little girl named Rhoda Penmark (Chloe Keil), who lives in a small southern town with her parents Colonel (Robert Oliver) and Christine Penmark (Alicia James). Rhoda is sweet, charming, and exudes old-fashioned grace admired by everyone. But her mother has an uneasy feeling about her.

Rhoda gets just about everything she wants in life, until a classmate wins a penmanship medal she desperately desired. Then on a class trip, the boy who won the medal suddenly drowns, and Mrs. Penmark becomes convinced her daughter is responsible for his death. From there, she embarks on a journey uncovering dark family secrets, leading to a morbid attempt to resolve family issues.

“What horrifies is that something terrible might be within the realm of possibility,” Calabrese said. “Not that something did happen — or will happen — but rather that it could happen. We spend our lives in quiet dread of what might occur.”

The play debuts in sync with Halloween, a timing Calabrese called “fortuitous.” Bad Seed will be on stage Saturday, October 27, at 3 and 8 PM, and on Sunday, October 28, at 4 PM.

Bad Seed presents the very reasonable possibility that criminal insanity could be inherited. That may not be true — but it just might be. Therein lies the horror,” said Pellegrino.

Bad Seed is produced by the LIRC, a community theater company in Suffolk County. Its mission is to produce classic plays, as well as high quality original works, for Long Island audiences. Recent productions include To Kill A Mockingbird, Doubt, and The Miracle Worker.

“We love the Vail-Leavitt. We’re hoping to partner together to bring more high-quality performances to the East End while elevating awareness of the theater. It’s one of the best kept secrets on Long Island for historical places,” Calabrese said.

The historic Vail-Leavitt Music Hall is the oldest theater in downstate New York and is 20 years older than Broadway’s oldest theater. It’s been an uninterrupted source of entertainment, an important meeting place, and a wealth of local history since 1881.

The Vail-Leavitt Music Hall is located at 18 Peconic Avenue in Riverhead. Matinee performances are $20 and $15 for seniors, and the evening performance is $25 or $20 for seniors. Tickets are available at and at the box office.