A verbal fencing match in the MJT

Alonna Ray, Contributing Writer

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Matthew Sawczyn’s senior show, “A Marriage Has Been Arranged,” by Alfred Sutro, is a witty British love story. Photo by Rachel Polzer.

In a clash of dueling wits and unexpected romance, Matthew Sawczyn’s senior studio, “A Marriage Has Been Arranged,” showcases the classic tale of two enemies falling for each other’s intellect.

“My show is a 19th century drawing room play by British playwright Alfred Sutro,” Sawczyn said. “He was a contemporary of Oscar Wilde, so it’s very witty, very biting and very British. If you like ‘Downton Abbey’ or ‘Pride and Prejudice,’ you will love this play.”

Sawczyn stumbled upon this classy one-act play, which he refers to as a “little gem,” when looking for his studio last fall.

“The moment I read it I knew it was the one,” Sawczyn said. “I was really just captivated by it. I think the two characters are incredible individuals, and, of course, I love the classic love story it portrays.”

Lady Aline de Vaux (senior Shannon Scott) and Mr. Harrison Crockstead (freshman Nicholas Moore) are both fiercely independent, dominating intellectuals who despise each other.

Aline is a well-bred Englishwoman who, according to the script, “would unhesitatingly know the proper thing to do did a camel bolt with her in the desert, or an eastern potentate invite her to become his two hundred and fifty-seventh wife.” She dominates her social spheres, yet is plagued by a wounded heart and an inability to settle down.

“Lady Aline is a very poised and elegant person,” Scott said. “She’s very witty and very intelligent, and she almost always knows the right thing to say. She knows what to do in every situation. But, even though she’s living in an elegant society, her life hasn’t been as happy as that society seems. She has this underlying depth and emotion to her, and what’s nice about this play is that you get to delve deeper into those underlying emotions.”

Crockstead, on the other hand, is not nearly as poised. According to the text, he has a tendency “above all, of seeming perfectly indifferent to the comfort of the people he happens to be addressing.”

Moore described him as being a “hodge-podge” of the manliest characters and actors.

“There’s a little bit of John Wayne, a little Hugh Jackman, maybe some Bruce Wayne in there too,” Moore said. “In every room, he’s always the person who’s in charge, whether the people know it or not.”

These two fiery personages come together in what Sawczyn describes as a “verbal fencing match.”

“The biggest note that Matt keeps giving us is ‘Make your words your weapons,’ ” Moore said. “We’re trying to tear each other down constantly, and then through that we realize, ‘Wow this person can actually challenge me in an interesting way.’ ”

Sawczyn described the difficulty in creating a realistic transition from loathing to loving.

“They’re two characters who adamantly oppose each other at the beginning, but then slowly realize that they respect each other and can relate in a way that they can’t with anyone else in this world,” Sawczyn said. “We’re trying to draw out that change and make it very believable.”

Scott pointed out that it was the humor of the show that makes this transformation believable for her.

“It became so much more funny once we put the light, witty aspect onto it. I think that’s what made their budding friendship more realistic. Before they fall in love, they become friends first, even in the short amount of time,” Sawczyn said. “Their ability to be witty and enjoy what each other is saying — even if they’re driving each other crazy — makes their progression from friends to lovers more enjoyable and realistic.”

The show will be performed this coming weekend with Anton Chekov’s “The Bear” and Molière’s “The Doctor in Spite of Himself,” which also involve romance and marriage.

“The directors, Ali Sentmanat, Paul Lewis and myself all thought that was really cool that all three of us chose these plays that deal with interaction and battle between the sexes,” Sawczyn said. “They each come at it from different angles, so it will be cool in one night to see all of these shows and get three different perspectives on the eternal tale of men and women.”

“It’s just especially funny to be doing them in the spring here,” Scott said. “If you’re looking to see how to do ring by spring, come see these shows and see how it’s done!”

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