Barnard Theatre Thesis Festival
Written by Bwog Staff
In order to procrastinate obsessively while counting down days ’til the finals grind, Bwog’s newest Performance Pundit Alex Taylor ventured over to sit in on the Theatre Department’s version of finals: the directors’ theses. Sit back, relax, and enjoy her review of the Barnard Senior Thesis Festival I.
Micheal LaChiusa’s “Gloryday” was done justice by director Cody Haefner CC’12 and his unbelievably talented cast. Upon entering the theater, as well as throughout the show, I was struck by the ingenuity of the staging. Strategically stacked black boxes and a faux-grass carpet created the desired image of the NYC skyline and Central Park simply but appropriately. The musicians sitting amongst the skyline added another interesting dimension, and the placement of the conductor struck me most of all, as it almost seemed as if he was the God all the characters were looking for. The score was played so well by Julliard-trained Yoshiaki Ko that I forgot he only had a flute and drums to back up his piano. The cast fit together flawlessly with all five actors both delivering in their individual songs and blending together nicely in group numbers. Kathryn Maslak BC’12 stood out as Aunt Monica, a militant atheist turned miracle searcher, drawing both laughter and tears through her performance as a fully developed character. Across the board, it was apparent that Haefner had placed a tremendous amount of trust in the actors; however, there were a few moments that lost me momentarily. Chris Silverberg CC’13 and Sam Mickel CC’14 pantomimed fake liquid and I caught myself distracted by it, and not focusing on the story. Overall, Gloryday is a treat for any musical theater fan. The singing and acting are on point, and the direction and staging complements the talents of the actors charmingly.
Maurice Maerlinck’s “The Blind,” directed by Alexandra Clayton GS’12, was without a doubt the most provocative of the three pieces, as well as the most avant garde. The most impressive aspect of the staging was the lighting, which manipulated the audience’s vision through the use of extended periods of darkness peppered by bright flashes of light. While occasionally painful, the message was not lost. The set and blocking were immediately striking, as the eight actors appeared t be confined in a large see-through box, barely moving, if at all. I found the choice smart, considering the trapped nature of the eight blind characters whose guide has gone mysteriously missing, but it also put a tremendous amount of pressure on the actors to keep the story dynamic and alive solely with their voices. Olivia Levine BC’14 did this most successfully, using her voice to create a fully formed character, the authoritative leader of the blind, with a vibrant personality. The costumes–plain, clinical jumpsuits with dog tags–created an interesting uniformity, but the masks, designed by Alexis Wilcock BC’14, were truly incredible. They extended the noses and ears of the actors, as if these senses were more pronounced due to their lack of vision, an idea that was reiterated by the finger extensions worn as well, which extended their sense of touch. The Blind is very subjective, and, though very well done, not something I would necessarily rush to watch again, if only because of the discomfort it provokes. In that, however, lies Clayton’s directorial prowess. Her goal was to make a statement and create a vision, and in that she undoubtedly succeeded.
The Long Goodbye
As I watched the cast of The Blind put up the set for “The Long Goodbye,” written by Tennessee Williams and directed by Louisa Levy CC’12, I knew that it would be something special. The amount of detail and dedication put into that set is indescribable. It was gorgeous. Everything from the couch to the period issues of Life Magazine and the costuming drew the audience into the story from the moment the lights went up. There seemed to be so many things on stage at the beginning that I was shocked and horrified by the emptiness of the room by the end. The blocking and staging, despite this tremendous attention to detail, seemed effortless, a testament to both the actors and Levy’s direction. Everything was so natural that it was easy to forget that the actors were saying lines and executing blocking. Acting standouts were Jacob Coppola CC’12 and Sofia Vassilieva CC’14 as the brother and sister Joe and Myra. I could feel the audience holding its collective breath as it watched these two fight, and root for them both even as they stood in opposition. Coppola’s speech at the end, an assertion that life is nothing but one long goodbye, hit me harder than any other speech throughout the evening. Tackling a Tennessee Williams play is no easy task, but the talent and hard work of both Levy and her cast shone through more and more as the story progressed, and I can honestly say that as I felt the ending approach, I was not pleased. I wanted to watch it forever.
The Senior Thesis Festival ran from Thursday, April 12 through yesterday evening at Minor Latham Playhouse in Milbank.