Tantalizing, troublesome thriller takes over the theater

By Samantha Brandbergh

A sinister combination of horror and comedy is promised in Westminster College of the Arts’ (WCA) regional premiere of The Praying Mantis.

Written by Alejandro Sieveking, the play is a story of four sisters living in a run-down mansion in Chile. The plot takes a dark and dramatic turn when a new boyfriend comes into the picture.

As horrifying secrets are revealed, the production is likely to leave audience members on the edge of their seats.

Director and Assistant Professor of Theater Trent Blanton was particularly excited for this production because of its potential cultural influence on the cast.

“I saw this play about 20 years ago, and I’ve always been fascinated by it and had been looking for the right time to do it at Rider,” Blanton said. “We’re always committed to exposing our students to different genres and new voices, especially world writers, and this is the perfect opportunity to expose them to a South American writer.”

The cast of six gives actors the ability to work closely together. Junior musical theater major Molly Franco portrays Adela in the play and is grateful for the opportunity that this environment provides.

“I loved working with such a small cast and crew,” she said. “It allowed us all to get comfortable with each other quickly and also to become closer. Everyone in this show is so talented, and it’s been wonderful to watch them all work. I’ve learned so much from everybody, which is all you can really ask for.”

Along with its sinister plot, the play deals with several existential questions.

“The play sort of questions the existence of God and whether or not this family — as well as the whole world — has been damned,” said sophomore musical theater major Alexa Canelos, who plays Lina. “The ‘unknown’ is something we all, as humans, struggle with, and I think this play does a great job of emphasizing that.”

Franco said that being a part of this production allowed her to expand her theatrical horizons.

“Adela is very calculated and knows how to use seduction in a powerful way,” she said. “Getting comfortable with that was a little challenging at first, but it has been so rewarding to finally feel confident in doing things that are out of my comfort zone.”

Fellow cast member, junior musical theater major Abigail Anderson, put an emphasis on the thrilling and horrific nature of this production, describing it as “being thrust into the middle of a nightmare.”

“There’s something very peculiar and unsettling about the characters, the storyline and the overall atmosphere,” she said.

Blanton described the set, created by Rider set designers, as being one of the many aspects that makes this production unique.

Blanton characterized it as a “thrust experience,” saying that “the audience will be right on top of the action, and the actors will be right on top of the audience.”

Because this production is the regional premiere, the actors have not been able to see the show. This granted them the opportunity to make the portrayal their own. “[The cast] had no preconceived notions of what the characters needed to be,” Anderson said. “We all really had the opportunity to create something original and fresh.”

Anderson hopes that The Praying Mantis will resonate with viewers and leave a lasting impression.

“I hope that the audience can take our strange journey and leave feeling like they just witnessed something they have never seen before and that it sticks in their heads long after the lights go down,” she said.


printed in the 04/8/15 edition

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