By Samantha Brandbergh
Much like the speed of light, the speed of life can hit you whether you’re running toward it or away.
The musical “The Theory of Relativity,” which took place Feb. 21 through 25, told the stories of 13 seem-to-be strangers through monologues and songs, later revealing how each person is connected to each other.
Directed by Trent Blanton, professor of theater, the musical seamlessly blended scientific principles introduced by Albert Einstein with the impact that humans can have on one another.
Unlike traditional productions, the entire cast remained on stage throughout the emotional, relatable and comedic show, using their chairs as props and points on a constellation graphic on the floor of the stage.
The cast began by reciting questions regarding physics, such as “Person A is walking toward Person B at a rate of three miles per hour, and B is walking toward A at a rate of two miles per hour. How fast does B perceive A to be walking?” These led them to think about their own lives and relationships.
As each character told their story, the remaining cast members sat back, listening in and reacting along with the audience.
Two of the standout musical numbers, “Footprint,” performed by junior musical theater major Charley Furey, who played Ryan, and “Promise Me This,” sung by sophomore musical theater major Kaelan O’Donnell, who played Mira, delivered strong emotions of love and loss.
Furey’s soft vocals touched the audience as he told the story of coming home from college, only to find how much has changed in his character’s hometown.
“And home’s a place of comfort, nothing’s ever forced. Then over dinner with your parents, they tell you they’re getting divorced,” he sang, as groans and gasps were heard across the theater audience.
With every emotional piece, however, came moments of comic relief. Senior musical theater major Lizz Sooy’s portrayal of a germaphobe, Catherine, who opens doors with her elbows, was one of the highlights of the production. As she made her way to the front of the stage, the spotlights revealed Sooy’s face in various disgusted facial expressions, much to the audience’s amusement.
“He made me a cake,” she began. “The boy I love made me a cake with his own two hands.”
The monologue — which was broken up into three parts in between musical numbers — changed as Sooy’s character quickly realizes that, although she said she didn’t “know where his hands have been,” she knew that they had held hers, and her expression quickly turned from revulsion to a goofy grin.
The audience was able to make the first connection between characters with the performances of “I’m Allergic to Cats,” performed by sophomore musical theater major Daniel Starnes, who played Paul, and “Julie’s Song” sung by senior musical theater major Kara Jönsson, who played Julie. Sat in a chair in the front of the stage, Starnes sang to the audience, who served as the father of the woman he wishes to marry, Julie.
The only problem is he’s allergic to cats, of which Julie has four. She later reveals to her pets that she accepted the proposal and hopes they approve.
While some of the topics were humorous, “The Theory of Relativity” also touched on social issues, such as same-sex relationships with the song “Apples and Oranges” performed by junior musical theater major Wyatt Slone, who portrayed the character of Oliver, and sophomore musical theater major Terren Mueller, who played Mike.
The pair sang the peppy tune which compared sexual preference to fruit.
“We’re two guys who like oranges, who were sent a clear message by faith: ‘We don’t have to like apples, oranges are great,’” they sang before ending the performance with a kiss.
The musical number “Pi,” also broken up into three parts, was the most scientific of all. It told the story of Adam, a shy physics major, played by senior musical theater major Brandon Fuller.
Adam never dabbled in love, and always stuck to numbers because of their “safety.”
“What could be clearer than Pi is 3.141?” he sang.
While each musical number and monologue seemed to have no relation, it wasn’t until senior musical theater major Sarah Heinzmann, Caroline, delivered the “Manicure” monologue, where the audience was able to piece everything together.
The audience once again played a role, serving as Heinzmann’s nail technician painting her nails for a blind date with a physics major, who the audience can safely assume is Adam.
She comes to her appointment late, claiming she was held up in the bathroom because a woman was opening the door with her elbows. As each character was mentioned in the one-sided conversation, they sat in their chairs.
Whether it was her friend Julie who just got engaged or a boy she went on one date with who didn’t like apple pie, Heinzmann’s monologue linked each story together.
The final number, “Nothing Without You,” showed that humans can become connected through the simplest action.
“I’m nothing without you, and I hope it’s true that you’re nothing too without me. You’re a reflection of me, I reverberate, you reply. If I have a purpose, if I count at all, you are why,” the cast sang, their voices soaring.
With a stunning stage and a talented cast, “The Theory of Relativity” proved to be an uplifting and inspiring production that took audiences through a wave of emotions, showing that small interactions can have large impacts.
Published in the 2/28/18 edition.