Every seat was filled at the Margaret Jonsson Theater on opening night of this semester’s Senior Studios. Senior drama majors Paul Lewis, Matthew Sawczyn and Ali Sentmanat chose plays that flowed together remarkably well yet drew laughs from the audience in very different ways.
The night’s first show was “A Marriage Has Been Arranged” by Alfred Sutro, directed by Sawczyn. With a cast of just two, the entire play revolved around one conversation in a late 19th century London home. The costume, set and sound designs enhanced but did not overwhelm the actors’ performances. Though slow in the beginning, the play gradually drew in the audience, thanks to the vulnerable yet strong Lady Aline (Shannon Scott) and the pompous but endearingly earnest Mr. Crockstead (Nicholas Moore). A dialogue about social status, broken promises and torn hearts culminated in a sweet ending made memorable by the expressive actors.
Molière’s “The Doctor in Spite of Himself,” directed by Lewis, had a noticeably different feel to it before the action even began, thanks largely to senior Esther Sequeira’s set design. Paint-splattered canvases, old barrels, trash bags and empty bottles of Mike’s Hard Lemonade scattered the stage, indicative of the smart slapstick show to follow. Save for one long scene change, the show moved quickly and flowed well, and the actors adeptly kept pace with the quick dialogue. Sophomore Noah Kersting as the accidental doctor Sganarelle owned the stage throughout the performance, constantly drawing laughter from the audience. The cast’s enthusiasm was contagious, and they kept character remarkably well given all of the ridiculous antics onstage, which included beating others with sticks, wearing puffy wigs and muttering medical diagnoses in “Latin.”
Not as slapstick as Lewis’ production, Sentmanat’s production of “The Bear” by Anton Chekhov drew laughter from the audience before the actors even spoke. The lights first went up on a portrait of junior Ed Houser as a Russian aristocrat and the dead husband of Yelena Ivanovna Popova (senior Hannah Korman). The play’s action centers around a heated argument between Popova and Grigory Stepanovich Smirnoff (senior Simon Lemaire). Lemaire’s pugnacious Smirnoff perfectly matched Korman’s haughty Popova as each took turns shouting out the vices of the opposite sex. It was a fast-paced and witty verbal battle set to well-chosen Russian music that heightened but did not overwhelm the performances. The chemistry between (the engaged) Korman and Lemaire was palpable, and the servant, Luka (senior Evyan Melendez Torres), had the energy to match.
With all three shows sold out, this semester’s Senior Studios were an unequivocal success.