By Codie Barry
As the 2015 spring semester winds down to a close, five of the nine drama department seniors showed their stuff in their senior studios. The five shows ran from Thursday, April 30, to Sunday, May 3, and the incredible variety of plots, the impressive acting and inventive sets were a testament to the theater program at the University of Dallas. Each senior was able to showcase his individual creative tastes, artistic visions and directing abilities. Viewers experienced a criminal case, a fantasy kingdom, a romance, a German serial killer and the back of a Texas bar.
Deborah Corpening directed “Equinox” by Jonathan Graham. The setting was stark, a set comprised of two chairs and the actresses. Ellie Dimitry played Evelyn, a 14-year-old girl being questioned by investigator Christine, played by Chetna Rajpurohit. Evelyn had been found naked in a field one night, screaming, and accompanied by her 19-year-old male friend. The play explores the tenuous reality of being a child with the desires of an adult, and the societal tendency to sexualize without context. Corpening made an ambitious choice with “Equinox,” with its controversial, pertinent subject matter and bare setting. The daring paid off. Dimitry and Rajpurohit were extremely convincing in their natural dialogue and their portrayal of the subtle bond that forms between them.
Margaret Claahsen directed “The Frog Prince” by the Grimm Brothers, adapted by David Mamet. The adaptation was funny and modern. Aidan Malone played the Prince, who is turned into a frog after he refuses to give a witch, played by Alonna Ray, the flowers he picked for his fiancee. Alec Thie played his trusted serving man, and Mary Armato was a milkmaid who befriends the Prince after he has fallen into misfortune. Malone was uproarious as the Prince; it was difficult to tell if he was acting or improvising. The developing relationship between the Prince and the milkmaid proved sweet and a little bit heartbreaking. “The Frog Prince” emphasized the arbitrary nature of suffering and punishment.
Jerick Johnson directed “Sganarelle, or The Imaginary Cuckold” by Molière, and translated by Albert Bermel. The play explored desire and insecurity, with two couples who are convinced of each other’s infidelity. Matthew Sawczyn played Sganarelle, who is convinced that his wife Martine, played by Regina Mills, is having an affair with Lélie, played by Samuel Pate, the lover of Célie, played by Amy Federer. Hilarity ensues as each person is consumed with jealousy and rage at each’s lover’s supposed infidelity. The play is written in metrical rhyming verse, but the actors all internalized the script and spirit of the play such that the language lent to the comedy. The caricatured acting style was perfect for the over-the-top subject matter, and much credit should go to the director and the actors for their control and mastery.
Brian Ahern directed “Bremen Freedom,” by Rainer Werner Fassbinder. “Bremen Freedom” is a dark, comic death romp through 1830s Germany. Catie McLain played Gesche Gottfried, a German housewife driven to the end of her patience by an abusive husband, played by Zach Kraus. She spirals into a killing spree, poisons family members and subsequent lovers and escorts their souls from this world with an eerily-sung hymn. The play had the audience erupting into nervous laughter and audible gasps and groans as the plot unfolded. Unsettling, “Bremen Freedom” was extremely enjoyable and masterfully performed.
Taylor Garcia directed “Lone Star” by James McLure. It is about a man’s return about a man’s return from the Vietnam War and the bond he forges with his brother as he begins to recognize the inevitable changes that returning from war brings. Real-life brothers Stephen and Alec Thie played Ray and Roy, with Joseph Quinlan as “friend” Cletis. The grubby setting, withinnumerable bottles of beer and a carpet of peanut shells, set the scene for Roy’s life to fall apart, with Ray admitting to having slept with his wife while he was away, and Cletis crashing his most prized possession, his pink 1959 Thunderbird convertible. The play was hilarious and touching, and the Thie brothers were absolutely magnificent. The play received a well-deserved standing ovation.
The 2015 senior studios successfully boasted a wide array of themes. The beauty of the senior studios is the community that arises out of them and the invaluable self-expression the theater allows. The wonderful plays are displays of deep contemplation, and they show the internalization of important themes that are then given to the audience to enjoy. The theater is truly a transformative, communal experience, and these studios showed that magnificently.