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Barnard Theatre Thesis Festival

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.

Gloryday

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.

The Blind

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.

 

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8 Comments

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous beautiful review Alex. well said. shout-out to Silverberg, you were super!

    1. this was says:

      @this was Lorenzo, btw :)

  • Same Veesh Cast Member says:

    @Same Veesh Cast Member This is an incredible review and I love bwog and V-show loves bwog and everyone loves bwog (espesh Alex Katz)

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous Finally, a great review from BWOG! PROPS TO ALEX TAYLOR! :) this is what a theater review should be like. congrats!

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous More thoughtful and theater-literate reviews like this please, Bwog. Great job Alex! The theses were wonderful.

  • so essentially says:

    @so essentially this is a good theater review because it’s uniformly positive and uses the word “blocking?”

    1. Chris says:

      @Chris Nah, it’s a good theater review because it singled out high points effectively and with attention to detail. I agree that it was very gentle on low points, perhaps excessively so (I mean, I loved Gloryday, but I’m sure there were moments where my performance wasn’t all it could be that the reviewer could’ve dwelt on more). Nevertheless, the review noted the aspects of each show that worked the best, as well as moments that detracted from her experience (Sam and I pantomiming drinking, for example). And while it only dipped its toe into the water of negative criticism, there were at least gradations in its praise, so that one can see what the reviewer enjoyed the most; it wasn’t just a blanket “this was good.”

      And yes, having some idea of the elements of theater and which role is responsible for each is essential to writing a good review. Understanding the effect that staging or design has on a show, as separate from writing or acting, is crucial, and there have definitely been bwog reviewers in the past who have not understood that. Good on this reviewer for effectively/correctly singling out the aspects of the show that impacted her experience.

      Anyway, reviewer-person, thanks for coming to see the shows and taking the time to write some thoughtful feedback! Glad you enjoyed them!

  • friday night audience member says:

    @friday night audience member congrats to the directors of the thesis festival! you guys produced amazing work that really impressed the entire audience!

    I am unsure though how no one has given more props to the actors.
    Some of my favorite moments haven’t been mentioned. I don’t remember names but the girls who played the movers in the Williams piece were fucking hilarious (got the best laughs of the entire night!!), that girl who did the hysterical crying and baby crying noises in the Blind, and of course the always impressive stage presence of emily in Gloryday.

    Those were just a few i remember at first

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