The title of Marma Turns 70 and the posters with pictures of broomsticks strewn through campus gave little indication of what to expect from the most recent Cap and Bells play written by Steve Marino ’14 and directed by Julia Juster ’14. And when Marma, played by Kimberley Golding ’16, walked out on stage, played a retro ’50s track on her computer, sat back in her massaging chair, and then jumped up to erotically dance with her broomstick, I still could not predict what was to come. Her first son Randy, played by Alex Foucalt ’15, walks in on this unsettling display to wish his mother a happy birthday. Marma then embarks on an analogy beginning, “Life is like a box of chocolates…” automatically prompting her son and the audience to complete the famous Forrest Gump quote. Marma has a surprise in store, revealing that with each chocolate box there comes a diagram showing which are coconut cream or peanut butter cup. She likens her memories of her children to those delectable desserts, saying that she has savored each one.
The conversation between mother and son gradually reveals the family secrets. The father, played by Justin Jones ’16, is a brutish alcoholic who occasionally beats his sons. Randy rants about his brother, Matt, played by Jackson Myers ’17, a successful television anchor who spoils his mom, gloats in his fame and is a racist, homophobic anti-Semite. Randy himself is a real estate agent who has been married twice, and has a vocabulary limited mostly to profanity. He is full of repressed anger toward his brother and dad but at the same time, he has only good intentions for his mother and those around him. Marma proves a peculiar character, a whirlwind of sexual passion and relative ambivalence towards her family, accepting her husband’s glaring faults and seeing past her kids’ rough edges. Soon, Matt, then Marma’s lover, cable guy Jim, played by Gideon Hess ’16, and eventually the dad all come into the living room in which the entire story unfolds. Much of the play revolves around the brothers quarreling and then Marma’s affair.
The structure of the play was interesting; at times the main conflict and direction seemed vague. Yet the ending clicks the whole exercise into place. We leave the family at the end sitting together eating chocolate, not saying anything, and more importantly not making any serious plans to act on their true intentions, almost forgiving each other for what has just been said. This family experiences Marma’s birthday and soon the fighting is forgotten by all as they continue to go on as they were. The ending certainly had a rather unsettling tone for a comedy.
That being said, there were definitely laughs to be had, whether at Randy’s foul-mouthed ranting or Marma’s sexual declarations. Hess gave an especially humorous performance in the role of Marma’s lover. The character’s empty-headedness and lack of a backbone made him a point of derision, yet his loving and simple nature made him the character that the audience could sympathize with the most.
Overall, it was a good performance from the entirely student-led production. Occasionally the dialogue seemed muddled, but the good balanced out the bad. Marino commented on his experience as playwright, saying, “To watch Julia, the actors and the stage managers throw themselves wholeheartedly into the project was not only incredibly inspiring but about the most fun I’ve had in four years here. Moving forward, I plan on watching the recording of the play on a biweekly basis. I hope to someday move beyond it and write something new. But I’m definitely going to enjoy this for a while.” Marino intends to pursue a future in playwriting and has just applied to screenwriting MFA programs. If Marma turns 70, attended by over 200 people over the two nights is any indication, his future promises to be bright.