The most astonishing thing about the two plays being shown at the DoYo this weekend is the amount that is said—by silent characters. In both “The Stronger” and “Mountain Language,” characters who don’t actually speak at all throughout the duration of the plays figure prominently in their overall message.
“The Stronger,” by August Strindberg, directed by Ruby Hankey (’13), features a married woman who runs into her unmarried “friend” in a cafe on Christmas Eve. Some sort of conflict quickly becomes apparent between the two, and the rest of the play is the married woman’s confrontation. The married woman, Madame X, the night I went was portrayed splendidly by Sophia Blum (’13). Blum’s emotions resemble a tornado, trapping the audience until the end of the show. However, both actresses switch every night.
Though Blum’s intense energy carries the show, the silent character of Mademoiselle Y, played by Billie-Krishawn Holmes (’14), cannot be overlooked. The show is as much a dialogue as a monologue. Although Holmes doesn’t ever speak, she is able with her expressions to respond to Blum’s ramblings.
The only other character in the play, a waitress played by Ariel Gitlin (’13), is also silent but provides comic relief for some of the tenser moments of the show. These bits are set apart very cleverly with a unique lighting scheme done by Rebecca Bickley (’15) and music drifting in from the rest of the café, designed by Kayla Bowers (’13).
Unfortunately, many of Holmes’s expressions are lost due to poor staging. The stage is sandwiched by the audience on either side, so the audience ends up getting a better view of each other than the actors onstage. This makes it difficult initially to get lost in the play.
Despite this, the emotions of the play still come across well. Blum especially is able to build up emotions showing through a brief scene that could take place anywhere the entire emotional range of a woman—from her most insecure to most confident self.
The next play, “Mountain Language” by Harold Pinter and directed by Charlotte Drover (’13), was even more dramatic. The show features a group of women who have come to visit their loved ones in prison. The brutally oppressive prison guards refuse to allow the women and men to speak in their native language.
The Elderly Woman, played by Catherine Spino (’15), and the Prisoner, played by Ronald Truman Kitts (’16), were definitely standouts. The relationship between the loving, confused mother and the tortured, desperate prisoner was a painful but extremely well-done part of the play.
Another standout performance was Tim Ward’s (’14) portrayal of the Officer. Ward was extremely effective at producing the image of a sadistic man who seemed to thoroughly enjoy the suffering of others (even his own guard).
Also impressive was Talia Lawrence’s (’13) makeup design. Lawrence was able to create realistic wounds in very short periods of time, something that requires tremendous skill to pull off so well.
The sound design by Ryan Carey (’14) was also fantastic. At times they seemed like they were becoming unbearably loud, but right at that moment they would cut out. It was quite clever as it was almost in itself providing a glimpse of the kind of torture the prisoners were going through.
The success of “Mountain Language” was almost entirely based on the brilliant coordination between the cast and crew. The show went on seamlessly due to some talented people backstage, allowing the audience to become completely entranced in the illusion created by the performers onstage.
Both the shows were actually spectacular. Though both featured silent characters, they used that silence effectively to build relationships between the characters and carry out the overall theme or message of the piece.
The plays are being shown Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. Tickets are $8.