By Nicole Veenstra
The method behind baking a cake can be compared to that of creating a musical. Of course the latter is much more difficult, but both require time and labor, and both are given to others to critique once they are finished.
Normally the two have nothing to do with each other, but in Mixing Bowls, senior English and secondary education major Nicky Singer’s original one-act musical, baking and acting are mixed together to create a confrontational and challenging take on family relationships and personal struggles.
The play, performed in the Spitz Theater on Saturday, did not have the typical song-and-dance arrangement with elaborate costumes and detailed sets that musicals are known for; instead it focused on the five students who acted as the main characters and lesser characters, as well. Referred to as a staged reading, limited props were used by the actors and the narrator (Jenny Scudder, assistant director of the Student Success Center) and music director, Brent Johnson, were placed in the middle of the stage.
Singer’s musical has no issue pushing boundaries and does so through raw dialogue (the language in the bakery during the opening sequence is comparable to a Quentin Tarantino film) and a shockingly intense rape scene. These controversial qualities carry the realness of the musical to the next level and force the audience to react to the difficult events that take place before their eyes.
It is impossible to deny that the rape scene was successful in both making the audience uncomfortable and showing how invested the actors were in the characters they portrayed.
Nervous laughter could be heard during the five-minute nightmarish memory, especially when Ashley (sophomore musical theater and speech/interpersonal communication double major Aleaha Jones), the victim, ran to individuals in the crowd, pleading for help. It evoked an emotional response from the audience, some of whom struggled to watch such a raw incident unfold.
Despite such awkward responses from the audience, the male (a minor character played by sophomore musical theater major Travis Przybylski) refused to let up, proceeding to throw Ashley onto a table, push her dress up and take off his own pants while his face filled with determination and rage.
Although a rape scene is never a desirable sequence to watch or act out, it drives this particular plot, giving the musical a reason to continue. Before the emotional scene, which is staged as a memory but takes place on New Year’s Eve in the bathroom at a party, there is very limited character development.
However, after such a serious issue occurs and Ashley’s resulting pregnancy is finally brought forth, the characters are required to react immediately.
Through these reactions, the true colors of each character show through and the reasons behind the tumultuous relationships between certain characters are finally revealed. Big personalities are evident from the get-go, but the audience is kept at a distance from each individual’s emotions until they are asked to respond to Ashley’s news.
Singer’s unapologetic attitude toward theater challenges any preconceived notions of what a musical must be like. The one-act musical ends abruptly, but through brief interactions between the audience and the actors — in one scene a minor character played by Przybylski chooses random audience members and asks them to buy mixing bowls —the musical keeps the audience on its toes from start to finish.
In the end, it is true that Mixing Bowls would benefit positively from deeper character development and a smoother ending, but it has the foundation to grow. Although it’s hard to describe the musical in 600 words, it definitely pushes the boundaries of theater and grabs ahold of the audience’s emotions, refusing to let go until the final curtain — no matter how mixed up and uncomfortable the storyline gets.
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Printed in the 12-7-12 edition