Theatre majors examine illness in D.O.L

The Senior Seminar in Theatre presented D.O.L., a work conceived and created by Williams seniors Gabe Anderson, Meredith Fruchtman, Jess McLeod, Dana Lea Nelson and Eric Powers, and advised by visiting lecturer Tina Shepard. The play cast Genevieve Sparling ’04, Alicia Andrews ’03, Nelson, Brendan Docherty ’04, Ian Lockhart ’02 and Benjamin Kapnik ’05. The production took place over the weekend of November 29 to December 1

D.O.L. was very professional, with the gorgeous set, designed by Julie Seitel ’94, utilizing every possible nook and cranny of the Downstage to its full potential. I was impressed before the show began, and while I see where the money was spent on the production, I must ask why a class project needed to sell tickets, rather than be funded by the theatre department (and thus our tuition).

The audience is thrust suddenly into the action in an exciting and chaotic sequence in which one character finds another slumped over, dead in her seat, while elsewhere on the stage are displayed the various reactions of other characters.

The intensity of this scene was emphasized by the effective use of low bass rumbles and shrieking electrical sounds by sound designer Anderson. After this opening, the play went back in time, setting up the conditions for the murder and poetically ending the first act in the same way that it began, an excellent touch. The second act described the aftermath of the killing and the ultimate resolution. The structure of the play, written by Powers, was very solid.

Unfortunately, the strong opening was followed by disappointment. As the characters developed, we were treated to one stock character after another, with typical and predictable dialogue and reactions. The murder victim, of course, was mean to every other character, and seemed to deserve her fate. Her actions seemed irrational and unmotivated, and certainly no one pitied her demise. In fact, after meeting the other characters, I felt disappointed that the slaughter of one-dimensional characters ended so soon.

There was the slightly unstable sister who could only relate to other characters through fear; the calm and collected psychologist who negotiated using logic and reason; the genius intern who thought he knew everything; and the mass murderer, who was the sanest one of all. These characters were each well-presented by the actors, but unfortunately were not constructed by the script to be original.

The interaction of these stock characters was uninspired in every way. Must evil always be so cruel? Must every crazy person utter short, mysterious phrases and run their fingers through their hair? Furthermore, I question the relevance of the Oscar Wilde quotes that were interspersed throughout the play.  Suddenly, in the midst of her plotting and scheming, the evil doctor takes a break to stand at center stage and deliver a line about art. This seemed to be more of an excuse for the production than a realization of the plot.

If the dialogue was intended as a satire of realism, taking each emotion to its absolute extreme, it overshot the mark. Jess McLeod’s direction at each point was clear, but heavy-handed. There were some brilliant moments, including the sister’s frantic search for a lost paper, the posthumous meddling of the evil doctor as the ghost, and a very solid ending. But sitting through pages and pages of dialogue delivered in unrelentingly harsh tones, I wondered if we could find any humanity in these characters at all.

Overall, the production was well-performed. Each character was portrayed convincingly, albeit uninterestingly. The sound design was eclectic, at times utilizing harsh and artificial sounds which matched appropriately with the mood of the piece, and at other times including segments of classical music (like Debussy’s Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun) whose presence was a complete mystery. Fruchtman’s lighting design, while simple, was always extremely effective. While the show was successfully presented, its intentions were unclear. I missed the relevance of this work to Oscar Wilde’s The Decay of Lying, I did not understand why the only relationship allowed to exist between any two characters was that of anger and constant belligerence, and I failed to see what impression I was supposed to take out of the experience. Perhaps, as suggested in the play, “art itself is really a form of exaggeration,” but a degree of moderation might have led to more effective communication.

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