From Oedipus to Absurdity

So here we are in a new term. Places to go, people to see, and PA Theater shows to watch. Whether you are the avid dramatist or the “catch-a-play-if-Ryley-isn’t-open-yet” type, the Theater and Dance Department has a show for you this term. From satire to Broadway tunes, spring term promises endless variety upon the stages of Tang, Steinbach, the Theater Classroom, and even on the steps of Sam Phil. Here is a brief preview of what’s to come. For those who are looking for an alternative to the intense focus of the Theater 520 productions, the theater workshops seem to be the perfect beginning. Smaller, simpler productions, they are directed by students and contain everything from upbeat humor to solemn drama. Allowing a taste of the theatrical arts for those who can not sit still for more than 45 minutes, these productions allow beginning directors, actors, and theater-goers to embark upon their drama experience together. Among the theater workshops we have to look forward to this term are Oedi, directed by Abby Seldin ’05, Death Knocks, directed by Peter Rotundo ’05, The Macbeth Murder Mystery, directed by Emily Monaco ’05, Roman Fever, directed by Katie Nadworny ’05, and The Effects of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds, directed by Caroline Clafin ’05. Examining a few of these shows more closely, one realizes the incredible variety offered. Oedi, which goes up April 27, is a spoof of the famous tale of Oedipus. It is the story of a brave war hero who takes control of a kingdom, kills the leader, and marries the queen, only to discover later that the king was his father and that his new wife is his mother. The lead of the show, Chris Zegel ’05, who plays Oedi himself, commented that “[the cast] has fun, because it’s definitely a corny, corny show, but it’s a party and we enjoy it.” Zegel promised lots of wacky humor and a surprise ending that will “make the show worth watching over and over.” On the more intellectual and eccentric side of humor is The Effects of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds, directed by Caroline Claflin ’05, which goes up May 29. In this story, a young girl’s entry into a competitive science fair takes its toll on her family life. Because the actors of this show have chosen to keep their comments a secret, the PA community must await the debut of this production on the stage of Steinbach in May. For the more committed theater enthusiast, there are two larger shows to look forward to this spring. The first of these to go up is You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown, a musical written by Clark Gesner and based upon the comic strip “Peanuts,” by Charles M. Schultz. Directed by Lydia Wallace ’04, this show maintains a fun balance between humor and sadness in the lives of its comic strip characters. With singing, dancing, and a dog named Snoopy, You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown promises to be a Phillips Academy hit when it arrives on the Tang stage on May 15. The second large show of the term is the Theater 520 production, Rhinoceros, written by the French playwright Eugene Ionesco and directed by Instructor in Theater and Dance Judith Wombwell. Rhinoceros features more “theater in the absurd” than do any of the aforementioned productions. Its plot revolves around the life of a man named Berenger as he realizes that many rhinoceroses are on the loose in his nameless French town. As those around him, including his friend Jean and his secretary Daisy, mutate into these creatures, Berenger pledges to stop this crazy epidemic. The result is, as one would assume, chaotic. In regards to directing this show, Ms. Wombwell has confidence in the group of actors she has selected to take to the American High School Theater Festival, part of the world-renowned Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland: “They’re amazing—so quick and sharp that my expectations for the production have only increased since we started.” Although the logistics of any production can be time-consuming and difficult, Wombwell applauds the efforts her cast made to raise funds for the trip. “The details are daunting,” she said, “but these kids work hard and I know they are going to be a great group to travel with.” The Theater Department is poised to enjoy the spirit of the spring. The upcoming performances promise lively entertainment. With the immense variety of scripts and genres and the range of complexity in the shows ahead, anyone, whether a self-proclaimed “theater person” or a casual and occasional fan, will be able to enjoy the productions slated for the weeks to come.