Barnard Theater Thesis Review
Written by Bwog Staff
Bwog’s Thesp Crit Joshua Sorenshine caught the last show of the thesis festival last night:
This weekend, the Barnard theater department opened its doors for the annual thesis festival, giving audiences a performance that left this reviewer heartily satisfied. Both Alex Brinkman-Young’s, BC ’11 rendition of Tom Stoppard’s Cahoot’s Macbeth and Katie Lupica’s, CC ’11 sampling of Erik Ehn’s Saint Plays entertained and challenged the audience throughout the course of the evening.
The night began with Cahoot’s Macbeth. In a quaint, and slightly skewed home owned by our hostess, played by Tara Pacheco, CC ’13 we found a rag-tag group of actors furiously trying to put on a performance of Shakespeare’s Macbeth while constantly fighting off, around, and even over the interference of a particularly nasty police inspector, played by the fabulously funny Christina McCarver BC ’13. The abrupt transitions from the world of Macbeth to the hostess’ home and back were made possible by the talent of Lorenzo Landini, CC ’13 as Pavel Landovsky (playing Macbeth) and Ben Russell, CC ’11 as Cahoot (playing Banquo, Duncan, and Macduff). The pair worked well together, never faltering as characters within Macbeth or their struggle against the inspector. The play grew more absurd by the minute as all the characters “caught” the nonsense language “Dogg,” which is passed like a disease from person to person. Easy, the unfortunate lumber-delivery girl, played by the brilliant Bethanie Mangigian, BC ’11, was the source of the Dogg, and could not do her job until everyone caught her inconvenient linguistic disease. In the play’s final moments the entire cast speaks in Dogg and Brinkman-Young’s directing shines. Creating the final moments of a play without comprehensible language is no small feat, but Brinkman-Young accomplished it with grace, giving her actors strong motivations and utilizing the entire stage to leave us laughing and questioning the lengths to which we can go to make ourselves heard.
After a brief intermission, Lupica’s Saint Plays began with a near-bare stage. Four separate plays made up Lupica’s piece, each loosely tracing the life of a Catholic saint. First, the execution of Joan of Arc, played beautifully by Elizabeth Poleski, BC ’11, is told through Joan’s eyes and her fiery, passionate love for God. Next up was an ‘alternate-history’ to the tale of Saint George in which George, played by Jonathan Gutterman, GS ’13 rips the wings off of Gunna. Maya De La Rosa-Cohen, CC ’11 played the young Gunna, and Naomi Andebrhan, CUMC ’11 played her as an adult. The play about George was bound to be an audience favorite because of its strong narrative structure, a feature notably absent from the subsequent two plays. Though it was difficult to piece together the story of the final two plays, which centered on Saint Agnes and Saint Christopher respectively, the extraordinary efforts of Katie Craddock, BC ’13 as Agnes and Maya De La Rosa-Cohen as Agatha made the plays easier to follow. Both these actresses managed to imbue their roles with sincerity (an especially difficult task for Craddock who had to become a thirteen year old leprosy-healer who was burned, drawn and quartered, and then decapitated) that made their journeys compelling to watch even if we didn’t quite understand what was happening. To enjoy Lupica’s offering and to appreciate her own touch on these plays, we had to simply take in the experience. Lupica’s creativity showed itself in all sorts of ways, from the eerie dance of the Angels in Joan of Arc’s play to her simple presentation of a car in the final play with little more than a square of light and a small religious icon dangling from the ceiling.
The thesis festival at Barnard occupies a special place in the Columbia/Barnard theater community. It is the only opportunity (apart from possibly The Varsity Show) on this campus for students to take full creative ownership of a production that has so many resources at its disposal. For the whole production team, the particular difficulty of the thesis festival was how to take advantage of those increased resources without making the plays about those extra effects, gimmicks, or set pieces. In both plays, the teams managed to produce works of high-quality design while not overpowering their plays. Particularly noteworthy contributions came from Rolando Rodriguez, CC ’12 for the Cahoot’s set and Jacob Rice, CC ’12 for the lighting in both plays.
If this production left anything to be desired, it was a sense of unity between the two productions. While it is not required as part of the festival, it might have done both plays some good to have worked together to create a through-line or, at least, some semblance of continuity between the plays. The other noticeable struggle of the thesis festival was the difference in talent that was observable onstage. While no actor performed poorly, those with more commitment and energy overpowered other roles. While it will be sad to see Brinkman-Young and Lupica depart the Barnard theater community just as they are both coming into their own as directors, we wish them the best of luck!
Cattermole via Wikimedia.