Contemporary Theatre’s Staged Reading Thrives on Minimalism

Contemporary Theatre

Boston College’s student theatre group Contemporary Theater (CT) did something uncommon for the theatre department—a staged reading. For those of you unfamiliar with this term, a staged reading is when a group of actors read a play aloud from a script, usually while seated and without any of the usual accompaniments of a theatrical production. If the acting is strong, as was the case in CT’s performance of Sexual Perversity in Chicago, this can make for a very compelling way to see a play. For this particular production, Michael Joseph, director and MCAS ’18, chose to go with the bare minimum of production values. The actors sat in chairs next to one another and read aloud from books as opposed to the binders on top of music stands typically used for staged readings.

Despite the minimalist approach the actors took no time to engage the audience. This was especially true for Frank Cascone, MCAS ’18, who portrayed Bernie, a chauvinistic veteran of the Korean War who relishes observing “broads” and recounting his sexual encounters. The show opened with an energetic interplay between Bernard and his compatriot Danny (Jacob Caudell, MCAS ’17), as Bernie recounted his most recent and bizarre sexual encounter in graphic detail. Anyone familiar with Mamet’s plays know words like “profane” and “explicit” do not even begin to describe them and this one wastes no time in launching into graphic sexual dialogue that does not relent until the script’s last line. But the actors did not shy away from the vulgar material and instead fully embraced it with hilarious results.

While Cascone plays Bernie with a uncontainable macho energy, Caudell gives a somewhat more restrained performance as Danny. One of the main story arcs of the play centers around Danny’s attempt at a long-term relationship with a woman named Deborah (Natalie Maine, research assistant). Caudell and Maine are well matched for their onstage relationship. They manage to find to moments of endearing awkwardness amongst the play’s raunchy script when they are first getting together. As things eventually go wrong for the couple, Maine more than held her own in the nasty arguments the two engaged in.

Joseph’s staged reading of Sexual Perversity in Chicago demonstrated just how effective a staged reading can be as a means for showcasing a play. In addition, staged readings have virtually no budget and do not come with the huge time commitment of being involved in a full-scale production at BC. Staged readings serve as a great way to showcase a wider variety of plays on campus and provide opportunities for people to still participate in theatre without having to make such a significant commitment in their schedule.

Featured Image by Meg Dolan / Heights Editor