Theater, when done properly, can enchant its audience into thinking that it must not have been hard work to accomplish at all. Then there are your Grey’s Anatomy musical episodes that make viewers shake their heads in dismay, turning potential theater lovers into nonbelievers with a single sassy snap during a tepid performance of “How To Save A Life.” Luckily, Boston College’s theater department has spent the last year excelling with mesmerizing performances that will surely mark this academic year as one of the school’s most creatively thrilling ones. It’s also heartening to see the school encourage its students to attend such performances through theater classes that require papers about the shows-while these students might not have normally made their way to Robsham on a Thursday evening, it at least opens the door for future engagement with the theatrical arts.
This year, the two main stage shows have served as wonderful bookends to an exciting season. In the fall, Into The Woods captivated audiences with its modern day retelling of popular childhood fables. This weekend, Luke Jorgensen’s masterful retelling of the Bard’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream spun the story into something magical. Reimagining the tale through a Bollywood lens, the department’s production not only elicited gales of laughter from the sold-out crowds (a true feat in its own right, considering the busy time of year at which it was performed), it also dazzled with spectacular and stimulating sets, lighting, and dancing. It’s only a shame that it couldn’t have been performed two weekends in a row to allow the greatest possible number of students to view its wonders.
Though not entirely theatrical narratively, Robsham’s Rising Up! also opened new doors for theater majors with dance concentrations to demonstrate their workmanship in front of a packed house. It was the first show of its kind in the theater, and its critical and popular success should ensure many more of its kind in the future.
Perhaps even more thrilling were the Bonn Studio performances that ranged from sexually provocative (Spring Awakening) to wrenching tales of familial cruelty (The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds). These smaller but no less influential shows offered audiences a glimpse of BC students’ unbridled creativity. It also speaks to BC’s willingness to accept and grow that it allowed shows such as Doubt and Awakening to be performed on its campus. Thematically, both shows differ wildly, but both also demand that their audiences question their faith following the final curtain. Similarly, Lysistrata is an antiquated play that the department managed to spin into a thoroughly modern piece of showmanship, rife with throbbing dance numbers (what other performance of the 411 BCE show could claim to open with Ke$ha’s infamous “Blow?”) and sharp, crackly wit that never felt outdated. This year, the Bonn offered everyday college students the opportunity to see something thought-provoking and innovative.
It would be a tragedy to talk about BC’s theater and the arts without mentioning some of the graduating seniors who have kept audiences enraptured for the past several years. It’s going to be close to impossible to replace Deirdre McCourt, A&S ’12, who this year alone conquered roles from a schizophrenic child whose brittle exterior hid a quivering shell of a girl, to a no-nonsense nun so set in her ways that she couldn’t ever imagine anyone else taking command. McCourt has consistently demonstrated her multifunctional ability as an actress, concluding with her giggly role in Dream, a small but hard to overlook performance that required true comedic timing. Likewise, Lysistrata‘s compelling Allison Russell, A&S ’12, shone in her performance as the leader of a pack of women who refused to return to their husbands until a peace treaty was signed. She strode around the black box with the confidence of an actress with twice her experience, shining equally as brightly in Dream in her all-too brief appearance.
It would be difficult to name every senior who has contributed to BC’s theater scene over the past several years, but each one of them has brought his or her energy to performances that surpass even Broadway-quality shows with their precision and passion. Technicians like Midsummer’s John Delfino, A&S ’12, might go unheralded for their behind-the-scenes work, but they truly represent the lifeblood that keeps the department ticking. The pinpoint precision of that show’s choreography, commanded eloquently by Ariel Durgana, LSOE ’12, literally silenced the audience until the masses rose to their feet in rapturous applause.
On Saturday, Jorgensen brought his Creative Dramatics class’ interpretation of The Little Mermaid to O’Neill Plaza to the delight of little ones who had wandered over after messing about with chalk and tie-die shirts. It was encouraging to see the looks of rapture on the younger crowd’s faces. Jorgensen clearly knows how to get at the true heart of theater, and shows like Dream and Mermaid are what theater is really about. BC has made the effort to foster a thrilling year in the theatrical arts, culminating with this year’s Arts Festival. Judging from the slack-jawed toddlers in the Main Tent on a windy Saturday afternoon, the importance of that effort has not gone unnoticed.