If you enjoy being disturbed, inspired, and above all intellectually stimulated for a night, I would highly recommend attending the plays “Two Face” by Lee Ann Hoover (’13) and “Waiting for Lefty” by Clifford Odet. The two plays—one about a series of meetings between a student and his guidance counselor, and the other about a taxi union during the Great Depression—definitely give the audience plenty to think about.
Before “Two Face” even started, I could tell director Katelynn Devorak (’13) had put careful thought into the set design. With the help of set designer Valerie Bannan (’13) and props designer Molly Porter (’15), the stage was transformed into a very organized office. In fact, the meticulous organization of the props at the beginning of the play provided even more contrast as the situation onstage deteriorated.
Adding to the theme of deterioration were Tim Ward (’14) as Dr. Hawkes and Jordan Sokol (’15) as David. The two seemed to go too rapidly from having no connection to confiding dark personal secrets to one another. This could be because of a disconnect between the two actors in the first and second scene. But both teamed up to shine brilliantly in the final scene, switching at times, trading off acting as the aggressor and victim. Ward especially was perfect in making the audience empathize with someone society would usually dismiss as evil. Sokol, on the other hand, emoted through his choice of physicality, making the character his own through nervous tics—such as tapping his feet. Emilyn Bona (’13) should also be applauded for designing basic costumes that allowed for obvious scene changes without taking any time to change.
Hoover’s script, though written with tremendous depth, seemed to have a lack of development in the first two scenes. Though her wry and clever humor made people laugh, myself among them, I couldn’t help feeling that if she would have pushed the development between Dr. Hawkes and David just a bit further initially, the play would have been more cohesive on the whole. Also, for being a Harvard-educated man, Dr. Hawkes at times seemed a bit dense. Overall, however, Hoover’s ability to provoke emotional reactions within a widely-varied audience was quite impressive.
Devorak was able to pull together a very impressive performance. The attention to detail was very impressive, down to the lily plant that, though in the background, towered in a position of power above everything else in the room. In order to fully appreciate the cleverness of both the directing and the script, you really just have to go see the show. “Waiting for Lefty” was also well-directed. It’s hard to say whether director Amy Crossman (’13) was the reason behind the wonderful ensemble work done between actors, or whether they were simply fantastic on their own. Either way, the cast was spectacular.
Out of the actors with speaking roles, there was not a single weak performance, only stand-outs. The Performance of the Night award would have to go to Sophie Blum (’13), who captivated with a display of passion that Blum should sell to today’s political world.
All the actors should be commended though, especially through their embodiment of clipped New York accents, characteristic of the era in which the play was set. The women were also very good when it came time for them to play male roles, taking care to walk with masculine posture and sit in masculine positions. Costume designer Christina Lockerby (’13) helped lend credibility to the actors through her spot-on period piece costumes.
Crossman made an interesting directing choice concerning scene changes. While the actors were moving props, they would, in character, mutter to each other about the scene just presented. At first, I thought this was distracting. Eventually, though, I grew to appreciate it as a way to make the play more unified. Crossman also placed actors among the audience,which I’m typically not a huge fan of. However, in this case it served to engage the audience more in what was going on.
The only criticism I have of the play overall has to do with the blocking. Dealing with an audience on three-sides is not easy, because that means one side of the audience is almost always seeing backsides. This effect could have been reduced if a bit more movement was added to some scenes. Both “Two Face” and “Waiting for Lefty” are definitely worth seeing. When it boils down to it, the choices made by the directors serve only to add or detract from two important themes: dealing with trauma and standing up for worker’s rights.
Each director did an extremely credible job with these difficult yet relevant scripts. Both one acts are running Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., and Saturday at 2 p.m. in the Thomas Kean Theater. Tickets are $8.