“We believe in living and living large.”
~ Kate “Ma” Barker
“She couldn’t plan breakfast.”
~ Bank robber Harvey Bailey, who knew the Barkers, speaking about Ma
She looked like somebody’s grandmother, elderly, sharp and wise. You never would have known that she was the alleged brains behind an illegal enterprise, which consisted of all four of her sons. Former FBI director J. Edgar Hoover called her “the most vicious, dangerous and resourceful criminal brain of the last decade”. Which is quite an untruthful compliment to a woman who never shot a gun, planned a murder or any kidnapping or robbery with her boys, Herman (1893-1927), Lloyd (1897-1949), Arthur “Doc” (1899-1939) and Fred (1901-1935) committed? From the outside, this family looked as normal and peaceful as any other family on the block. The only caveat was their bloody and heinous past. Arizona “Arrie” Donnie Clark, later known as “Kate,” lived in tremendous poverty living with her husband George and their sons. Herman, the eldest, was the first to strike out on his own and soon the rest of the family followed unto the unlawful lifestyle.
- Don’t miss 6-minute interview with Diana Kyle
Someone else is interested in the Barker clan. In the present time, radio host Adam Jacobs (Devix Szell) and spirit medium Muriel Evers (wonderfully played by Linda McShan) try to uncover what really happened at the 1935 shoot-out, some 80 years ago. The two explore the last place of residence where Ma and son Fred Barker lived in Lake Weir, Florida. The homeowner is convinced that mother and son are haunting the home, which makes it impossible to sell. The two semi-professionals go check it out and encounter a surreal experience. Muriel feels the Barkers presence, which, is quickly picked up by Jacobs’ equipment. Soon, dishes are flying, furniture is moving and loud screams from the past are clearly heard. “I can feel a mother’s pain,” Muriel said. It was in the living room where the two stood that Fred and Kate died. Fred died riddled with bullets and Kate got shot in the heart. The rest of the family left three days earlier. After that bloodbath, the Karpis-Barker gang is no more. However, the spirit of the carnage that happened eight decades ago still lingers in the house.
The Ghosts of Ma Barker takes place ordinary enough. The sons play a “friendly” game of cards. They have laid low for a year, but keep track of what’s going on through a portable radio. The announcer said that the Karpis-Barker clan is now public enemy number one. Actually, he said that Ma is public enemy number one. The boys decide to keep that information from their mother, because no one knows how she will react. At the helm of all these family ties is Ma Barker, played beautifully by veteran stage and movie actress Diana Kyle. She was gangster down to her core. She kept all her boys in check including the girlfriend of her youngest. Ma wasn’t taking any nonsense from anyone, whether they are related or hanging around like a groupie. Kyle was magnificent as the tough talking, drink swilling mama
with a lot of heart and bite. She can easily be maternal to one son and cuss out another who wasn’t acting right. She’s got the boys right where she wants them and they know it. She’s a ride or die chick that follows her own rules and breaks them if it gets in the way. Kyle was simply mesmerizing, to watch and learn from, and what you learn is that nothing can beat a mother’s love for her children.
The Ghosts of Ma Barker: Mother of the Underworldplays Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. until Sunday, August 2nd, at the Ruby Theatre Complex, located at 6476 Santa Monica Blvd., in Hollywood. For ticket information, call (800) 838-3006 or reserve online at www.mabarker.brownpapertickets.com, Twitter: www.twitter.com/bloodybarkers and Facebook, www.facebook.com/bloodybarkers.