PW Presents: Waxwing

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Originality in a theatrical production comes in many forms– content, structure, unique casting and acting choices, a novel use of space, an unexpected twist on a familiar trope, etc.

Waxwing, written and directed by Evan Silver ’16, is a simultaneously familiar and original piece of work. The story is immensely simple: two parallel love stories that eventually converge, one ending happily, another, not so much. An elementary plot comes as no surprise; after all, the show runs only 45 minutes long, hardly enough time for plot intricacies and complex character development.

However, Silver’s originality lies in the presentation, in the characters he’s constructed to tell these stories, and in an effective use of space and music to tease out tension from even a tired, old love story.

First off, I’ll address space. Silver, who triples as set designer, transformed the room into a runway, utilizing the tennis-court-arrangement of the space to evoke a love story that verges at times on a duel. It is an inventive use of the Upspace, and one not commonly seen.

From the moment the lights, subtly designed by Jordana Rosenfeld ’17, dim, you’re thrown directly into Silver’s world. This universe is one in which a bird and a boy not only converse, but also have sexual tension, and the sea and the sun are personified as starcrossed (see what I did there) ex-lovers with a juicy history.

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Sock and Buskin Presents: Sweeney Todd

Photos by: Danielle Perelman

It doesn’t look like you’re on Fleet Street when you enter Leeds Theater for Sock and Buskin’s production of Sweeney Todd. It looks more like Wall Street during the Occupy movement. 

Cast members are kicked out of chairs by policemen as the show begins, and soon we see that the show’s villains are the beneficiaries of the income gap, while its heroes (if you can call them that), reside significantly lower on the income bracket.

In the production, director Curt Columbus, the Artistic Director of Trinity Theater down the hill (so he’s kind of a big deal), breaths new life into the old Tim Burton Sondheim tale of a man (Sweeney) returning to London to exact revenge on the judge who sentenced him to life imprisonment on false charges. You all know the meat pie part. 

The set evokes a city on the brink: cardboard signs — one reads, “WHY?” and another reads “MRS. LOVETT’S PIE SHOP” — graffiti, and an enormous ad for McDonald’s that looks like it was reimagined for a horror movie.

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PW presents ‘Bobrauschenbergamerica’

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If you’re not sure what’s going on in Charles Mee‘s Bobrauschenbergamerica, you’re probably not alone. The play, whose title references Neo-Dadaist American painter and sculptor Robert Rauschenberg, is directed by Thom Finley ’14 and opens tonight in the PW Downspace. It is whimsical, wacky, and at times, bordering on nonsensical. Which is precisely the point.

The show’s eccentric nature is clear before actors even take the stage. The set, designed by Sam Keamy-Minor ’16, resembles an explosion of an all-American house. Symbols of domestic, small-town American life are strung from the ceiling, creating a web of dust pans, dollhouses, badminton racquets, toy cars, and rolling pins. Slides projected onto hanging white boards give the space a museum-like feel.

Bobrauschenbergamerica is held up by a committed and ceaselessly energetic ensemble cast. Much of the time the members of the show appear onstage all at once, feeling less like a group of individuals and more like a well-oiled machine. The nontraditional narrative structure, which consists of a series of loosely connected vignettes, synchronized dance numbers, audio clips, monologues and wordless sequences, is deliberately vague, demanding audience members’ active intellectual engagement. The dance numbers are just riotously funny, although there is something frightening in the moments of synchronization, something abnormally homogenous.

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PW presents “The Pillowman”

“I don’t really have a worldview. Well, actually, my worldview is that the world is a pile of shit.”

That’s definitely the idea you get as you walk into the Upspace for The Pillowman, which opens tonight at 8 p.m. and runs through Monday. With a dark, minimalist set and eerie dolls hanging on the wall, averting their gaze from the audience, this dystopian world director Andrew Ganem ’16 has created is unsettling before the actors even take the stage.

Yet, it is the cast, as they vacillate abruptly between riotous dark comedy and engrossing drama, that truly brings the text of Martin McDonagh’s terrifyingly brilliant three-act play from 2003 about a writer, Katurian Katurian (Alex Ostroff ’14), accused of carrying out the murders of three children exactly like they take place in his short stories, to life.

First, there’s Tupolski and Ariel, played by Sam Rubinek ’17 and Keston McMillan ’17, the abusive and deliciously sadistic policemen. As they nonsensically question Katurian about murders he did not commit, McDonagh’s biting satire is in its purest form, thanks to Rubinek and McMillan’s mastery of the comic tone and timing. Rubinek, with a drawl reminiscent of a 1950s Chicago mobster, is the good cop (although in this hopeless totalitarian dictatorship, there is no such thing) . McMillan is certainly the bad cop, his speech menacingly quiet and his body language hinting at the imminent doom each of these characters is hurtling towards. The first act belongs to this freshman duo.

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Awaken your weekend with Spring Awakening

Have you ever wanted to see a live version of Dora the Explorer, American Idol, Kidz Bop, and a Disney Channel TV show all rolled into one? Well, that is probably impossible, BUT this weekend’s production of Spring Awakening, book and lyrics by Steven Sater and music by Duncan Sheik ‘92, is the closest you’re gonna get. Some of the most accomplished theater students at Brown have come together to fill this year’s PW Week in the Space.

Inspired by the work of theater company Fiasco Theater, created by Brown Trinity Rep graduates, Sami Horneff ’12 decided that she wanted to spend her last semester at Brown creating a musical theater company. As Horneff says, “[Brown’s theater department] pushes us to be theater artists instead of just performers.” After setting on Spring Awakening as the show of choice, Sami began to gather performers and artists on campus who were also passionate about creating a student company.  Continue Reading