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Love and madness with Free Play

By Beck Holden

Section: Arts

April 27, 2007

The Free Play Theatre Cooperative, which launched its inaugural season just last semester, has announced its four-play season spanning both semesters of the 2007-08 academic year, under the theme of Love and Madness. The fall semester will see two of these productions, The Night I Asked Cristine to Marry Me by Sam Zelitch 09, directed by Allison Vanouse 09, and The Love of the Nightingale by Timberlake Wertenbaker, under the direction of Becky Webber 08, while the spring will bring C.P. Taylors Good, directed by Eli Matzner 08, and Martin McDonaghs The Pillowman, directed by Free Play Artistic Director Josh Mervis 08.

Zelitch, the playwright behind The Night I Asked Cristine to Marry Me, is remaining mum about the precise nature of the play, as it is a work in progress. Despite being a successful director himself (he directed Julius Caesar for Free Play last month), he has decided to turn the reigns for the actual production over to Vanouse.

This way I can put in as many fiery hula hoops and three-headed misogynists as I want, then hand it off to someone else and say, I'll be in the bathroom if you need me, he quipped.

Mervis noted that he and Zelitch have long been in discussion about the possibility of staging one of his plays with Free Play, explaining, His writing is both zany and compassionate and I cannot think of a better way for Free Play to begin showcasing student-written works and begin the season.

The Love of the Nightingale is based on the Greek myth of Philomela, who was raped and had her tongue cut out by her sister Procnes husband, King Tereus, but went on to tell her story to her sister by weaving it into a tapestry.

Webber, who will be helming the production upon her return from a semester at the Eugene ONeill Theater Center, explained, Though the rape is an incredibly weighty facet of the play, Wertenbaker is more concerned with the power of story in community She believes that telling the story of violence is the way we keep violence from occuring. By celebrating our ability to communicate through words, we as a people can rise above violence. Webber went on to explain why she feels we need theatre: We need someone to remind us how important storytelling is.

Good is about John Halder, a professor of German literature living in Frankfort in the 1930s as Hitler was rising to power. As Matzner describes it, The play takes us into the mind of John Halder, and we watch as he continues to block out the increasingly mad world around him. The production moves in a stream-of-consciousness style through conversations between Halder and his acquaintances, with live musicians and singers supplying the music he hears in his head.

Explaining what draws him to the play, Matzner wrote, I love a lot of things about the show I like how the show presents realistic, engaging conversations while surrounding them with surrealism;

a cast that sits onstage watching the entire show, for instance. I also find the use of music particularly engaging, not only because the score itself is beautiful, but because it so wonderfully illuminates the action it underscores. Finally, I think we can all see a bit of Halder in ourselves, which both terrifies me and fascinates me.

Finally, there is The Pillowman, under the direction of Mervis. The play focuses on Katurian, an author of dark short stories who finds himself at the mercy of his totalitarian countrys police when children start being killed in ways distinctly similar to the children in the dark stories he writes. Regarding his choice of the play, Mervis explained, The Pillowman is about the interplay between government and art insofar as who really has control, and McDonaghs gruesomely comic side comes out in full force The characters are among the most intense that I've encountered in the theater, but yet they remain accessible to younger actors, not falling into the trap of believable age range. I just picked up the play, read through it, and knew that this was the show I had to do.

For those who cannot bear waiting until next year for more Free Play, the spring 2007 season is not over yet;

Greed, an original rap musical by Will Chalmus 07, runs in Spingolds Merrick Theater Tuesday, May 1 at 7 and 9 p.m. and Wednesday, May 2 at 8 p.m.

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