Turning into Almonds: The Surreal and Emotional Comedy of The Melancholy Play

“Duck, duck, goose!” called Joan, played by Wambui Nyiha ’25, patting Lorenzo, played by Denzel Dickson ’26, on the head. After the ensuing mad chase, Joan successfully sat down in Lorenzo’s spot in the circle, leaving him to be “it.” “Peasant, peasant, goddess!” Lorenzo shouted, incorporating a characteristic twist into the classic children’s game.

Held on Saturday and Sunday in the Steinbach Theatre, the Theatre and Dance Department presented the Melancholy Play. Actor Chris Mouradi ’25, who has participated in various theater productions at Andover, gave his impression of this play.

“It’s a fun look into surrealism, farcical, comedy, and also drama; and it’s really fun. I mean, I’ve laughed and I’ve cried reading the script; sometimes both at the same time,” said Mouradi.

The plot of the Melancholy Play revolves around a girl called Tilly, whose therapist, tailor, and hairdresser falls in love with her, elevating her emotional state from melancholic to happy. In the end, however, the characters turn into almonds, symbolizing emotional breaking points. A central message was the idea of normalizing the melancholy and depressive feelings that come with mental health issues.

“There’s these societal norms or these societal views that we all kind of conform to based on what is meant to be felt and what is normal and what’s not normal, and I think this play put it into perspective that it’s not really for us to judge what is normal and what isn’t, and some of our judgments, when put in this context, seem so silly,” said audience member Ivy Randall ’25.

At the emotional climax of the play, Tilly realizes that she is now happy, rather than the melancholy gloom she felt at the beginning. Yet this serious plot point takes place during the deceptively childish game of duck duck goose, a contrast that Giarnese highlighted.

“I just thought it was funny because it was a childhood’s game, but it turned into this huge thing and it was a pivotal moment in the story but it was comedic. Because you see a lot of stories when they have pivotal moments or climaxes like that, they’re super serious, but this big change was funny and it was comedic. And they were using funny lines and a funny setting to convey that which I thought was interesting and was just really fun to watch,” said Giarnese.

In terms of the preparation process, The Melancholy Play was a relatively long show compared to the shorter productions that Andover usually hosts, making rehearsal commitments and memorizing lines heftier than usual. Dickson reflected on the hectic nature of the rehearsal process, remarking that it was somewhat difficult to have weekly two to four hour practices, in addition to memorizing lines and scenes.

“Sometimes it was hard going there and doing tech; I’m not used to doing these for three, four hours…But it was also really fun because I had many scenes that were funny and amusing to see my friends playing out with different characters and I could just laugh at that…And just how understanding everyone was through the mistakes and how everyone was going through the same thing and guiding each other,” said Dickson.

Additionally, due to the small cast, Mouradi felt that his fellow actors were able to foster closer camaraderie throughout the process. Furthermore, he reflected on how the play’s complex structure allowed the audience to gain a nuanced understanding of multiple characters’ stories and thoughts.

“I was a really small cast, first of all; it was a lot closer knit…I have never done a play quite like this before, and I think it was very special. There were a lot of props. I mean, I’ve been in plays with a lot of props, but it was very fun. I think we got to explore the inner workings of all the characters instead of just one main guy and their journey,” said Mouradi.

Despite the absurdity of the almond transformations, Giarnese noted how they nonetheless functioned as poignant metaphors that paid homage to the complexity of The Melancholy Play’s messaging. Overall, seemingly simple themes like children’s games and almonds effectively juxtaposed underlying themes regarding mental health.

“I just enjoyed how different it was. Because the almonds, it was just, it was a confusing metaphor but it was also a really beautiful metaphor. I really enjoyed the complexity of the overarching theme, and a lot of plays and musicals, they don’t get to hit points like that. But I think with this play, I really got to see the complexity,” said Giarnese.