‘Lucid’ and ‘Blood and Water’ raise questions about how we behave

April 20, 2018

UPDATED 4/26 at 10:30 a.m.

Every year, some of the most talented theatrical minds at Brandeis create personalized performances to explore issues important to them and the potential of theater. “Blood and Water” and “Lucid” demonstrate the power of student theater to push beyond the traditional techniques which define so much of American theater and spark powerful feelings.

“Blood and Water,” created by writer Lilia Shrayfer ’18 and director Joelle Robinson ’18, is an absurdist piece which explores how we define ourselves and how we understand each other. Inspired by stories of people leaving the world in which they were born to seek a better life, the play takes the audience on a journey through the afterlife, Idaho and more as it seeks an answer to how we construct roles for ourselves.

The show centers around a surreal story of a woman (lost soul? archetype of humanity?), played by Brenda Shen ’18, who starts as a cleaning lady in a theater of the dead but whose soul is shunted through a series of loosely connected adventures, forcing her to discover herself and gain the self-confidence she needs to determine her own fate. Though this basic plot-line sounds cheesy, the abstract and sometimes violent nature of the scenes makes the play as eerie as it is heartwarming.

As the most continuously-conscious character, the woman increasingly becomes the center of each scene as she gains awareness of herself. In each situation, she learns more about standing up to the forces attempting to control her. As she starts to take control of her own destiny, however, she increasingly gains control of those surrounding her who are seen between scenes asking for someone to take care of their souls. When she seizes total control of her destiny, she realizes she has been taught a powerful lesson about the power of people to care for others and provide them with an identity. With this caring philosophy in mind, she leads her fellow actors in sharing people’s stories and challenges the audience to share their own. ­

“Lucid” is a futuristic story of how we create exploitation and inequality in a post-apocalyptic world. Created by writer Gabi Nail ’18, director Raphael Stigliano ’18 and set designer Hannah Uher ’18, the play follows four women as they strive to survive and live in 2081.

The show’s atmosphere is set by masterful set design from Uher. The centerpiece of this world is a trash heap surrounding a single plastic tree with a design that calls to mind the fiber-optic networks our world is built upon. Slightly raised above this filth is a sleekly modern black table based upon the minimal movement which has come to define our vision of the future. These two elements create a divide between the “Insiders” at the table—those who live in the protected tower subject to mysterious Officials’ orders—and the “Outsiders” who struggle to survive and keep their freedom. The set is a simple, elegant way to establish this dual world and is filled with details which subtly reinforce themes of the show.

The story fleshes out this world with a narrative revealing the grander world’s details and consequences by focusing on the stories of “Outsider” siblings abandoned by their parent, the older Dawn (Lindsey Dawes ’21) and younger River (Eliana Weiss ’21); and “Insider” teen Zinnia (Karina Wen ’20) and her mother Faith (BT Montrym ’19). At first glance, the comparison between characters who must scrounge in the trash to survive and a family whose main concern is surviving adolescent rebellion only serves to demonstrate this future’s extreme inequality. Yet as the show continues, it draws similarities between Dawn and Faith, both of whom work to protect their younger counterparts. It also compares River and Zinnia, who both feel smothered by this protection, bringing forward the universality of certain human experiences even in the most desperate times. As the story gets more complicated, it demonstrates how our worst tendencies have the capacity to ruin our future but keeps the theme of universal connection throughout as a beacon of hope in this dark vision of the future.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article misidentified an actress in “Blood and Water.” The lead role was played by Brenda Shen ’18.

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