Arts Previews… Black Comedy

This weekend, audience members at “Black Comedy,” this term’s Theatre 520 production, will find themselves completely in the dark, at least for the first few minutes of the play. The first scenes of the farce take place in a complete theatrical blackout, with the actors maneuvering around the stage as if the lights were on. Fortunately, the audience does not stay in the dark for long. Shortly into the show, the characters find themselves with a blown fuse, and as the lights go out in the London flat, the lights come up on stage. The audience can see Carol, a petulant debutante played by Nikita Lamba ’11, and Brindsley, Carol’s starving-artist fiancé played by Christopher Blackwood ’12, moving stolen furniture around the stage. Not only is Brindsley preparing for a visit from renowned millionaire and art collector George Bamberger (Omegar Chavolla-Zacarias ’12), but he is also preparing to meet Carol’s father, Colonel Melkitt (Austin Teece ’12). When the power goes out, all of Brindsley’s plans start to go awry. Though Brindsley hoped for an intimate gathering, Mrs. Furnival (Jackie Murray ’13), the old maid downstairs, arrives. Mrs. Furnival, terribly afraid of the dark, stays in the apartment as more unwanted guests arrive. Later, Colonel Melkitt arrives and immediately disapproves of Brindsley. Lamba does an expert job flitting around the stage as Carol, trying to win her father’s affection for Brindsley, while Blackwood does an equally impressive job of getting increasingly frazzled as the play goes on. Things become especially complicated when Harold Gorringe (Khalil Fleming ’12), the flamboyant next-door neighbor, and Clea (Julie Cachia ’11), Brindsley’s not-so-ex-girlfriend, arrive at the apartment. Fleming masters the art of making almost every line a sexual innuendo. His timing as he fusses around the stage is impeccable. Meanwhile, Cachia’s character tries to win Brindsley back and simultaneously torture Carol. Garrick Gu ’13 plays the entertaining role of Franz Schupanzigh, a German electrician. As the apartment gets more and more crowded, crazy events begin to happen. Brindsley has to juggle two women in the dark. Carol must mediate between Brindsley and her father. Clea plays pranks on every character on stage, while Mrs. Furnival discovers gin for the first time. All of these events, and many others, combine to create a complex but hilarious performance. Each actor takes his character to an extreme, to the point that many might say the characters are exceedingly stereotypical. Mark Efinger, Instructor in Theatre, says that is exactly the point. “We have the freedom to create extreme characters. We were [even] able…to rely on the expertise of a volunteer student…to create the cartoon voices of the farce.” Because the show is a farce, the pace has to be quick, and the timing has to be perfect. Efinger said, “Farce is an uncompromising form of comedy, which requires timing and spacing.” Judging by the finished product, the time spent perfecting the farcical techniques has been well spent. The entire cast works together to make every moment fall into place. Apparently, much of the silliness in the show came from playing around in rehearsal. Tia Baheri, one of the production’s assistant directors, said, “I’d love it if we could release a blooper reel because I think that the actors did some really funny things during rehearsal.” Entering Steinbach Theatre, the audience travels to Brindsley’s London apartment. Efinger said, “The set was designed last spring by Mr. Murray’s set design class, and then modified by Mr. Bacon.” The set includes two floors, the first being the living room, and the second being Brindsley’s bedroom. The cast also got involved in creating parts of the set. Efinger said, “Last Wednesday, six members of the cast [and I] took a roadtrip to the Rockingham Mall and painted eight Buddhas in two hours.” Because of the show’s “backwards” lighting formation, the technical work has to be meticulous. Taylor Perkins ’12 operates the lighting design he created, while stage manager Joanna Wang ’11 and assistant stage manager Miranda Haymon ’12 keep the show running smoothly from cue to cue. Thanks to all of the work behind the scenes, the play flows effortlessly onstage. The play moves along with a quick pace, running an hour and fifteen minutes. Each moment is fraught with hilarious nuances. When asked about his favorite experience from the production, Blackwood said, “The laughter. Over all, this play has been one hell of a fun show to put on, and it’s an experience that I’ll never forget.”