The cast of The Aliens, by playwright Annie Baker and directed by Alex O’Connor, MCAS ’20, returned for a snippet-performance of their show this past Saturday at Arts Fest.
“This is the first play I’ve ever [directed at Boston College]. I fell in love with the script, and I find it to be really hilarious. I knew it was something Boston College students could realistically be cast in,” O’Connor said.
O’Connor decided to show Act I Scene III at Arts Fest, a part that introduced the shifting tones of the show—both humorous and somber—and allowed the cast to interact with the nuances of each other’s eclectic characters. The scene only consisted of three characters: Jasper (James Stevenson, MCAS ’20); K.J. (Matthew Dolly, MCAS ’21); and Evan (Will Dooley, MCAS ’22).
Each of these characters struggles with internal conflicts that are concealed by the layers of humor within the show—humor takes on the form of a coping mechanism, becoming one commonality that draws these characters to each other. But Jasper and K.J. in particular are also drawn together by personal struggles and passion-projects: Jasper’s novel, K.J.’s inclination to write wacky songs, and their collective dream of starting a rock band with the play’s namesake. Underlying these dreams, Jasper, who is best friends with K.J., fights emotional stability issues, while K.J. tries to ignore his own struggles.
“K.J. is a very quirky character, [but] he has inner turmoil he buries with a lot of bubbliness and strangeness,” Dolly said of his character.
Jasper and K.J. decide to take Evan, a high school student who works at a coffee shop, under their wing, finally providing Evan with the role models he’s been in search of.
“The way [my character] interacts with people is really interesting, because he’s a smart individual but he gets really nervous,” Dooley said.
Dooley projected these personality traits by incorporating hand mannerisms and a shifting gaze. He was interested in the connection formed between his character, Jasper, and K.J., taking the characters’ large age difference into account (KJ and Jasper are around the age of 30, and Evan is 17).
This scene jumped from Jasper’s animated novel readings to a comical serenade of “Frog Men,” performed on guitar by Stevenson and Dolly, but it’s also the last scene where all three characters are together before the show takes a more serious turn. For all of the humor included in this show, the full play deals with a lot of dark subjects, like coping with grief and drug use, events that come to the surface in Act II of the play.
“This is a really key scene because it brings a lot of the pieces of the play together, in terms of Jasper’s relationship with his best friend K.J. It’s a snippet in time of how things were when things were going well, before things go downhill,” Stevenson said.
At the end of this scene, the play reroots itself, the characters seated together in a line of three chairs on stage in a family-like arrangement.
“Looking at them all together, they looked sort of like a strange family, and I think there’s something really familial going on in the show—a search for a father, a search for role models,” O’Connor said.
Featured Image by Bridget Clark / For The Heights