When you walk into the theatre to see the spring production of “Suddenly Last Summer,” you will not be greeted by a gut busting script you may be used to. Prepare yourselves for the darkness.
Tennessee William’s script is somewhat abnormal and very heavy, leaving you questioning life rather than wiping tears of joy from your cheek. As described by almost every cast member, this show is very dark.
“It’s more dark and serious than anything else I’ve done at Wesleyan,” said sophomore Paul Kaufmann who plays George Holly and provides some of the only laughs in the show.
However, despite the mood of the play, the cast and crew have worked very hard to put on an excellent production, something our community has come to expect from the Theatre Department. Twice a year we are astounded by good acting and impressive sets, no matter the content being performed, and this is no exception.
“It’s been a lot of hard work,” said junior Gabbie Mokol whop acted as assistant director to Dr. Sally Shedd. “A lot of hard work went into the set.”
As soon as you walk in, you can tell just how much effort and skill went into it. The stage is adorned with a full size tree, pond, wall and an entire front porch. It scales to the ceiling and offers everything actors need for the entire play. The characters are able to interact with the set and utilize its size and complexity, even though the plot is relatively simple.
The story follows two women. An older lady by the name of Violet Venable, played by Tristan Hart, who lost her son the summer before and Kathy, played by junior Ada van Tine, her niece who was present at his death and has a horrible secret tucked away. They are accompanied by various other characters, including Dr. Cukrowicz or “Dr. Sugar” played by freshman Robert Sanders, who is steady in his performance.
“The other show I was in was ‘Noises Off.’ It was fun and crazy and this is dark and crazy,” said Sanders.
“It’s definitely the most dramatic show I’ve been in here,” said senior Sarah Imbesi, who plays Kathy’s mother Mrs. Holly. “My character has a transformation through the show. She starts off as a comic relief, and she gets more dramatic.”
All the characters have both dark and light times, but the overall tone of the show is dismal, requiring strong acting styles from all involved, no matter how big or small the part.
“I think all of the cast is dedicated to the show,” said van Tine.
The dedication is much needed, because nothing about this show is entirely simple. The extensive set and demanding roles are just a few factors that make this a complicated show to produce. Hair, makeup and costumes were also quite complex.
“I feel like the most challenging part is the old age makeup. It’s so tedious,” said first time hair and makeup artist freshman Khari Johnson. “But finding the colors to match the costumes, that just came naturally.”
Makeup was the real challenge when it came to having to transform a young Hart into an older woman who can barely walk. Costumes included tight dresses, two white suits and a nun’s uniform.
Wearing the nun costume was sophomore Alyana Mack, who considers her part funny, though she delivers a powerful performance as Sister Felicity. As a nun at St. Mary’s, she is charged with taking care of Kathy in her weakened mental state. With piercing eyes and will power, she both controls and helps Kathy throughout the show.
The most demanding roles and performances, however, came from Hart and van Tine. The leading women faced not only challenging costuming, but also the demands of a dramatic performance.
Hart’s character spends half the show talking about almost nothing, and the other half sending daggers at Kathy and releasing her rage, which Hart does effortlessly. She commands attention from the characters, but from the audience as well. Hart is a refreshing new face to Wesleyan’s stage, bringing power and experience to the show.
“It’s enthralling. I love being a part of a theatre group again,” said Hart with a big smile under her elderly makeup that takes up to an hour to put on each day. “The people here are great. I wish I was a Marlin!”
Hart, who does not attend Wesleyan, got involved with the show due to connections with Mokol and senior Sara Bell, who plays one of two Miss Foxhills, her understudy being freshman Ashley Williams. Bell and Williams are quiet, but sharp in their performances of Miss Foxhill.
Van Tine also won a difficult role, charged with being mentally unstable for the entire show, her part demanding the dramatic portrayal of every emotion Kathy feels, including confusion, rage and sorrow. Van Tine accomplishes this gracefully, bringing the audience into Kathy’s muddled mind and on the emotional rollercoaster that she goes through. Her simple and passionate gazes, tone and stage presence convey to the audience the desperation, hopelessness and guilt Kathy feels at any given moment during the play.
“It’s pretty challenging,” said van Tine about her role and the show as a whole. “I feel very lucky to be a part of this.”
While some of the script can drag on due to the content, including very lengthy explanations of vacations and the garden, the heart of the show shines, even if it leaves you less than optimistic about our world. One of the most striking, and somewhat upsetting messages comes when Kathy says, “Is that what love is? Using people? And maybe that’s what hate is – not being able to use people.”
While this, and other things, go unanswered in the play, the show itself is powerful. You may not be chipper after, but you will have witnessed yet another theatrical success on our stage.
To see the show, go to the Fine Arts building tonight, Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. For ticket information, please call 757-455-3381.