The audiences sitting in the Bonn Studio Theater this past weekend have been unique in a very important way. These audiences—composed of the friends and family of the playwrights and actors, along with some curious students—were the first people to ever see a live performance of The Things We Do and Get It Together. Each show made its debut as part of the Boston College theatre department’s New Voices 2018, a program that presents original plays written by BC students. Both plays were directed by Scott T. Cummings, a theatre department professor. The two plays—only about an hour each—were shown back to back, with a brief intermission in between. While there are clearly striking differences between them, their juxtaposition allows for the highlighting of the unique aspects of each. In the playbill, Cummings outlines this contrast.
“The plays could not be more different in subject and style,” Cummings wrotes. “But in their shared concern with basic aspects of how it is to be a person in the world, I think of them as friendly cousins.”
Both The Things We Do and Get It Together are tied together by a common thread of humanity. Whether this humanity is played on in a futuristic hellscape, or on the top floor of a house party, this thread is what binds the actors and the audience together as people.
The Things We Do is the first play performed in the double feature, written by Taylor Badoyen, MCAS ’19. The play begins as two women, Sam and Rae—played by Christine Schmitt, MCAS ’20, and Andrea Wisniewski, MCAS ’18, respectively—walk around a white square floor, lit by bright white lights. Rae begins to read from a large book at the center of the space. Suddenly, a panel upstage slides back and a man leaps onto the stage. He is introduced as Lex (Michael Mazzone, MCAS ’20). As the play progresses, the audience learns that these three people have been trapped in this place for an unknown amount of time. They continue to try and escape, or attempt to please whatever being has placed them there, which they call “The Divine.” They read from the book in an attempt to win The Divine’s favor and be released from their hellish prison. Yet each time they read and do not do it correctly, they must “fall.” Each consecutive fall lets them return and start again, but every third fall erases their memories. They begin alternating, so that one person can pass on the knowledge they have gained to the others before it is lost again. The Things We Do is a very thought-provoking and heady conceptual play. This sort of sci-fi/fantasy concept is not one usually seen in Robsham, but it comes as a breath of fresh air—albeit one that is initially hard to wrap your head around.
Each of the actors in The Things We Do turns in a great performance. As they consecutively remember and forget, their ability to play their current state of memory is remarkable. Throughout the play, Schmitt, Wisniewski, and Mazzone must rotate between learning and teaching the others, and these dramatic shifts in confidence and understanding feel smooth and well-transitioned.
Get It Together is the second play in New Voices. Written by Michael Quinn, MCAS ’19, it focuses on a conversation between two semi-inebriated college students at a house party. Harold and Mary—played by Tristan Horan, MCAS ’21, and Noelle Scarlett, MCAS ’18, respectively—have gone upstairs away from the rest of the party in order to hook up. Before they do, however, the two begin to simply talk. Simply talking is what most of Get It Together is, and it’s fascinating. Harold and Mary cover broad swathes of topics, from smoking pot to the nature of love to dramatic performance. Yet it feels like a conversation that many of the younger members of the audience might have had the previous weekend. The play is incredibly funny and intensely relatable, especially for college students watching. This makes sense, as it was written and performed by college students, but Get It Together is a play that everyone has seen unfold in real life.
Horan and Scarlett play their characters like they are slipping on a second skin. They present awkwardness, sexual tension, anger, remorse, and laughter as if the situation was really happening to them. The play unfolds so easily and smoothly that it would be surprising to learn that something similar to this hadn’t happened to Quinn, Horan, or Scarlett.
Both plays are clearly very different from each other. They engage with different concepts, they play the characters in different ways, and they take place in settings that could not be further apart. Yet the two are linked by the same thread of human nature—adaptable to circumstance though it may be.
Featured Graphic by Nicole Chan / Graphics Editor