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“Drunk Enough” intoxicates audiences with allegory

By Adam Lamper

Section: Arts

February 5, 2016

Brandeis’ latest theater performance “Drunk Enough to Say I Love You?” comes by way of the Artists’ Theater of Boston, a company dedicated to increasing knowledge of systematic injustices through artful collaboration. Written by Caryl Churchill, who is well-known for her work in postmodernist theater and plays such as “Cloud 9” and “Top Girls,” this performance embodied the themes of politics, injustice and sexuality that fans have come to expect from her works. However, despite its predictable motifs, through its skilled performers and integration of contemporary media, the show further surpassed the impact of Churchill’s message, perpetuating ideas of past atrocities committed by the United States into the pop-culture of today.

Presented in Merrick Theater, a subsidiary of the larger Spingold Theater, the set design of the performance resembled that of a bar, perhaps in literal reference to the more figurative title of the play. Though small in stature, the quaint atmosphere of the theater most definitely enhanced intended and unintended, but well-recieved, interaction between the cast and audience members, as well as the electronic, audio-visual imagery that played a pivotal role throughout the performance.

From the moment the house opened, allusions to the true theme of the play became more and more apparent, as projected center-stage was a series of slides reciting many of the evils mankind has committed since the Vietnam War, focusing heavily on aspects of the Cold War and conflicts in the Middle East, while simultaneously incorporating present-day strifes, chiefly the Black Lives Matter movement and environmentalism. Opening the night’s performance was an interpretive dance by Brontë Velez ’16, who is no stranger to the Merrick Theater, having graced the stage with her talent last semester during the performance of “COLLISION.” Set to a spoken word interpretation of the shooting of Renisha McBride, Velez’s dancing artfully and powerfully mimed the strength of the ethereal imagery created from lines like, “The stars weep at the sunrise, for this means death to the Moon. This is why they call it mo[u]rning.” Though not directly credited in the program, the speaker and writer of this short segment in the larger context of the performance had one of the greatest emotional and thought-provoking impacts of the night.

As the lights came up for the second time that evening, signifying the start of Churchill’s original play, the scene showed a scantily-clad, homosexual couple, known only as Sam #1 and Guy #1, as the roles are also simultaneously played by three actors and four actresses respectively. Churchill takes a route that aims more attention at the distribution of power within relationships, rather than on hypersexuality. Though not completely evident at first, it becomes increasingly clear that the relationship between the characters of Sam and Guy represent the figurative relationship between the United States and its citizens. Sam, while not being able to represent an entire country, acts instead as an amalgam of high-standing political personalities who are known for abusing their powers, ranging from President Reagan to the head of the U.S. Public Safety program and alleged torture expert, Dan Mitrione. Not unlike its use to convey the everyday person in Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451,” Churchill’s Guy represents the everyday American citizen, who initially falls head-over-heels in love with the powerful and masculine force that exudes from the character of Sam, who evidently abuses his power over Guy in the relationship. The play’s title, “Drunk Enough to Say I Love You?” plays on alcohol’s ability to inhibit critical thinking and to act on urges of lust, begging the question, “How drunk must one be to blindly follow and support the borderline barbaric actions and movements of an inhumane political power?”

Another interesting addition to this play was the role of pop-culture and other forms of media used to influence the political standing of the general populace, as well as to distract them from the truly critical issues facing our world today with trivial, celebrity news, often portraying stars such as Katy Perry, Miley Cyrus and Taylor Swift. In this sense, the idea that dystopian futures are not as far from the present as we would like to imagine is solidified. Further distinguishing of this is brought through the mentioning of the various techniques of torture inflicted to prisoners of United States Army, while, at the same time, superimposing many of the recently popular music videos depicting U.S. soldiers doing nothing more than “goofing off” at their overseas base. Again, a seemingly systematic attempt at nullifying the actions of these soldiers, and therefore the greater horrors of war.

With its incorporation of various genres of art, Churchill’s signaturely fragmented writing style, and wholehearted relevance to issues of today, “Drunk Enough to Say I Love You?” is a must-see for students with a passion for theater or social activism alike. Two more performances will be held on Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., in the Merrick Theater.

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