As a theatre maker in Toronto, I always find it fascinating to see the shows that come out of FWOP. This is the second time I have visited my brothers at Olin during Candidate’s Weekend, and I relish the opportunity to enjoy the spring show.
This year, there are two of them – one-acts, independent from one another but linked in many ways. Tom Stoppard’s The Real Inspector Hound, and No Exit, by Jean-Paul Sartre, respectively directed by Mitchell Cieminski, and the creative team consisting of Kelsey Breseman and Ian Hoover, will be presented again on Friday, March 1st at 8pm, and on Saturday at the same time. Even though I am on my February break from my devised theatre studies in Toronto, I appreciated a thought-provoking evening’s fare at Sorenson last weekend. It was encouraging to find such ambitious plays on the roster.
In both plays, FWOP asks (and is entitled to ask) a lot of their audience. Particulary interesting is the recurring idea of watching and being watched. The Real Inspector Hound frames the theme explicitly, as it places two theatre critics, Birdboot and Moon (played by Myles Cooper and Vidie Pong) outside of the action of a metaplay. Birdboot is enchanted by the new actress on the scene, Cynthia Muldoon (an enthralling performance by Emily Guthrie – a newcomer to the stage herself). Their dialogue highlights the kinship beween acting from script and acting out of self-preservation – building a persona for the consumption of others. Lines are blurred, the 4th wall is trampled, and the audience leaves with the delightful yet inexplicable feeling that they were somehow in on the trick all along.
Lines are further blurred after the curtain comes down, when Mr Cooper shows up once again in No Exit. It is a courageous shift in characterization, one soon paralelled by Mss. Ilana Walder-Biesanz and Molly Grossman, who also appear in both plays. The three are a tour de force, playing on the subtlties of Sartre’s philosophical quandry: are we only our true selves under the gaze of others? As we watch them watch each other, breaking down the facades they once presented, in life, we begin to question… who watches us? I was told after the show by director Kelsey Breseman that she observed myself and the rest of the audience squirming in discomfort at all of the right moments.
One logistical note: The couches in this custom hell were, themselves, custom-made by Olin students to be just the wrong shade of green. In both shows, I was impressed by the choices made by the actors, directors, and the rest of the FWOP design team. It was clear to me that students at this little Engineering college still make the time to give the creative arts the respect they deserve.