By Megan Raab
Rider’s fine and performing arts department is shedding a new light on Sophocles’ famous Greek tragedies in the fall play, “These Seven Sicknesses,” adapted by Sean Graney and directed by Trent Blanton. The show was told in three parts, alternating over a two-week run in the Bart Luedeke Center (BLC) Theater.
The show took place in a hospital in Greece as nurses attempt to treat those dying of “the sickness” that is spreading rapidly and wreaking havoc in the nation. It brought new life to the classic stories of the Oedipus cycle, Women of Trachis, Philoctetes, Ajax and Electra.
While these texts are ancient, the production’s take on them was vibrant and inventive, adding modern twists to these timeless tales. Blanton’s work highlighted the fact that, in today’s society, these stories had never been more relevant.
This show was not for the faint of heart. It contained violent deaths, fights, torture and gore. The technical aspects of the show were brilliantly executed. Each act was preceded by projections of a newsreel setting up the plot. These projections, designed by junior technical theater major Miranda Kelley, perfectly set the tone for the act and captured the audience’s attention.
The characters’ hair and makeup, done by senior theater performance major Jacey Schult, also stood out. One of the personalities with the most lifelike appearance was the character Herakles, played by junior musical theater major Daniel Starnes. Starnes entered covered head to toe in blood, having received chemical burns from a cursed robe.
Schult explained that creating the burns and bruises of such an iconic character was not an easy task.
“The process of creating his skin is a combination of cotton balls, liquid latex and a ton of coffee,” Schult said. “Considering it was [supposed to look like] a fresh burn, it was super important to me to incorporate not just a lot of red, but blacks and purples as well. Another big thing was making sure that he was glossy all over, to give the fresh look.”
Schult’s detailed work clearly paid off — when Herakles is revealed, the detailed makeup work, paired with Starnes’ committed performance, made this one of the most jaw-dropping moments of the show.
Schult proved herself to be multitalented and also appeared onstage in the role of Elektra. Her work, alongside sophomore musical theater major James Vinson in the role of Orestes, was incredibly haunting.
Vinson gave brilliant performances in multiple acts of the show and also portrayed the character Theseus. Playing multiple roles proved to be a challenge for Vinson, but it was one that he was able to overcome.
“It was intimidating at first because they are both such powerful roles,” Vinson said. “I had to work to put myself into the character while fitting their stories and pasts into the present moment.”
Another classic character that was given a new life was Ajax, portrayed by sophomore musical theater major Kristen Wisneski. During his act, Ajax broke down onstage, unable to distinguish reality from fantasy while attempting to cope with horrific war visions. Wisneski’s performance was heart-wrenching and incredibly powerful.
Antigone was present in multiple acts of the show as the Oedpius Cycle unfolded. She was portrayed by senior musical theater major Victoria Brown. Brown was able to create a lasting and interesting character arc that evolved with the complexities of the plot.
Her work was highlighted in the final act of the show as she became a martyr, not only for her brother but for all of Thebes. The act primarily featured Antigone and Creon, played by junior musical theater major Forrest Filiano.
Filiano’s interpretation of Creon was genuine and honest, carefully balancing the tyrant with the helpless man that coexists in the character.
“These Seven Sicknesses” is a two-part play and will continue to be shown in the BLC Theater until Nov. 17. Part 1 of the show can be seen on Nov. 15 at 7:30 p.m. and Nov. 17 at 2:00 p.m. Part 2 will take place on Nov. 16 at 7:30 p.m. and Nov. 17 at 7:30 p.m. All productions of “These Seven Sicknesses” will take place in the BLC Theater.
Published in 11/14/18 edition.