Nudity, experimentation and an almost incomprehensible performance – in short, the avant-garde – drew me to the Drama Building, on Saturday, Oct. 15 to see the After Hours performance, “A Night of Silent Theater,” and it almost delivered on all counts. The half-hour performance was enjoyable, if sophomoric. I don’t know if I agree with silent theater for its own sake, and even though the show did, at times, feel like a directing exercise, and parts of the stories were not sufficiently communicated, the directors and cast turned out a good product.
The first episode, “Third Wheel,” written and directed by Erin Kleiber, followed the antics of a would-be lover (Matt Wyznoski, complete with removable mustaches) as he tried to ruin a wedding proposal. It felt like a throwback to the exaggeration and physical comedy of Charlie Chaplin. Original music played by Tom Buoni during all three scenes helped enforce this connection.
In the second piece, a scene from “Same Time Next Year,” directed by Dolores Hernandez, characters mimed “I’m Sorry” and “Oh my God” almost inaudibly, adding powerful emphasis to key moments of a story about two lovers (Justin Blan and Jessie Burke) who find their tryst fraught with difficulties. The last presentation was a scene from Pixar’s “The Incredibles” directed by Paul Fojut. Paul was a clear storyteller and, although I had not seen the movie in years, I was immediately aware of the serious accusation of marital infidelity unfolding in front of me. Also, the use of supernumeraries to represent Mrs. Incredible’s (Kate Chiappe) stretchy arms and legs was very chic.
There was one part of the performance, however, that almost ruined a very enjoyable evening. When, during “Same Time Next Year,” the lovers were locked in a near-carnal embrace, the audience laughed. It was uncomfortable to see two of their friends in an extremely private situation. But in this case, it wasn’t the actors or the director who failed. It was the audience. I’m not saying it’s really the audience’s fault. The directors may be sophomores in their craft, but I don’t think any UD audience can claim even that much experience and discretion. The problem was the audience was just watching the scene before them without investing in it. The spectator needs to penetrate himself by means of the performance, to confront his outlook on life and through this either strengthen his convictions or leave them by the wayside and start again. This is extremely frightening: If the spectator is truly invested in the play, he might find something undesirable in himself. If you don’t want to approach theater this way, then keep to Christmas specials and Neil Simon. Don’t go to a show that tackles, no matter how clumsily, the darkness of the human condition. If you can sit for hours exploring the spiritual benefits of Homer – and I say this as a nonbeliever – when the “Iliad” is just a puddle of ink on a page, why shouldn’t you do it during a flesh-and-blood play?