One night + three BU shows = Lots of feelings

Reviewed by Lory Martinez

The graduate students of Binghamton University’s theater department presented their versions of Elizabeth Wray’s futurist parable, Forecast; Thornton Wilder’s 1930s comedy, The Happy Journey from Trenton to Camden, and Edward Allan Baker’s  family drama, Up Down Strange Charmed Beauty and Truth yesterday (Feb. 28) in Studios A and B in the Fine Arts Building.

These vastly different plays all had one thing in common: They really made you feel. Not to sound clichéd, but I laughed and cried and maybe got a little angry, all within the course of 120 minutes.

The show began with director Marty Murray’s take on Forecast, which featured a clever scene changer: Vocal cues from the actors directed audience members to close their eyes at the end of a scene and open them as a new scene began. It certainly made the play all the more enjoyable as the audience members could actively take part in the overall experience of the show.

The play, which followed the quirky love story between a U.S. astronaut and the owner of the potato farm in which he crash-lands, featured a number of interesting scenes, including one in which both characters found a way to relate to each other by playing a game which called for them to behave like animals. (As the potato farmer, Natasha Alimanestianu hopped around like a frog, and, as the astronaut, Anthony J. Gabriele howled like a wolf, etc.) In a later scene, the pair could be seen making natural fertilizer for the potato field while discussing cultural differences. These snapshots into the characters’ makeshift relationship made the awkward buildup of their romance both endearing and amusing to watch.

Director James Michalec’s take on The Happy Journey from Trenton to Camden also featured an interesting setup: The play revolves around a four-person family, but the stage manager took a seat on stage and acted as a nameless background character. Stage Manager Andrew Gutierrez silently reacted to what the characters were saying with alternating looks of concern, sadness and, when warranted, amusement. Aside from brilliant performances by the cast, this play was my favorite because of this particularly concerned fellow. He was never distracting, but instead served as a kind of mirror to the emotions we, as audience members, felt as the play progressed.

The family’s journey to their daughter’s home shed light on the funny and sad parts of traditional family life by creating a portrait of Americana at the time: A pious mother, quiet father and playful children in tow, dealing with everyday issues.

The final performance was T.J. Burleson’s version of Up Down Strange Charmed Beauty and Truth. This controversial and violent play topped off the night with riveting performances by Paige Gittleman, Amanda Palacios and Erik Young. The play followed the story of Steph and Marley, sisters with a difficult family life. Steph comes in bruised and tells her uncle Danny, who is helping Marley with her homework, about how her mother beat her the night before. The drama that follows is too good to give away here, but suffice it to say, there were powerful performance on all fronts. This play managed to incite strong feelings from audience members as well as highlight issues of love, pain and heartbreak.T.

If you’re interested in catching any one of these wonderful shows, the performances will be running at 7 p.m. through Sunday (March 3). Admission is $2.

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