Getting Playful with CU Players
Written by Bwog Staff
Bwog’s Hannah Goldstein reports…
Every year one of the Columbia theater groups puts on a production that caters to the audience as sophisticates—the after-dinner theater crowd, as it were. If last year it was CMTS’s Company, Steven Sondheim’s wry study of marriage and liaisons sexuelles in the upper-middle class, this year’s would be the CU Players production of Black Comedy by Peter Shaffer. The play, which clocks in at about an hour and a half, is a similarly quick-witted exploration of relationships and façade, but it is performed in the context of a—surprise!—black comedy, rather than a musical: dry in its wit, dry in the scotch consumed onstage, but certainly not dry in its entertainment.
Black Comedy is a farce set at varying degrees of lightedness, but mostly in the dark, with a fairly complex plot built around a male protagonist and his fiancée. It is one act long and is, as such, packed with brisk comic dialogues between characters who manipulate the dark to hide certain truths that would be otherwise visible to them. One of the amusements of the show, however, is that the state of lightedness in the fiction is always in opposition to what the audience perceives—except in the brief moments of dimness, in which the audience and the characters perceive the same lighting. Thus, the audience can generally see—literally and figuratively—what the characters can’t. Assistant Director Tessa Slovis does a noteworthy job juggling the lighting cues, which are especially comical during episodes of candle-lighting and candle-blowing in half-light.
The production, directed by Becca Leifer, was perfectly cast, which hasn’t always been this Bwogger’s experience with Columbia productions. Special note goes to Samuel Sainthil, making his CU theatrical debut as the agitated high-class homosexual Harold Gorringe; Collete McIntyre as the nephalist from upstairs, who acts out her accidental descent into tipsiness with a combination of panache and side-splitting schtick; and Yoni Grossman-Boder as the flamboyant German electrician Franz Schuppanzigh.
The one gripe this Bwogger had with the production was the inconsistency of the British accents across the cast (minus Schuppanzigh), a failing that broke the fiction at times. While some of the actors pulled the accent off very convincingly for themselves and for their characters, others were less convincing at either and/or both. This is not a predicament that is unique to college theater by any means; I most recently had the same complaint about Trevor Nunn’s revival of A Little Night Music on Broadway. But despite the spottiness of the accents, the cast still succeeded in conveying the quintessentially British humor of the show.
All in all, Black Comedy is a silly but intriguing romp in an exaggerated setting whose extreme circumstances add an interesting and thought-provoking dimension to the characters’ witty repartée. Since it is fun to watch and complimented our intelligence, Bwog gives it our highest honors and recommends it for everyone else to see.
Black Comedy has its last of three performances tonight at 8:00 in the Diana Center’s Glicker-Milstein Theatre.