The University’s Theatre Department is proud to present “Black Comedy,” a play originally by Peter Shaffer. The show promises to keep the audience at the edge of their seats laughing throughout the production. The performances are tonight, tomorrow and Monday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. in the Harvey M. Powers Theatre.
Assistant Professor of Theatre and Dance Anjalee Deshpande Hutchinson has been personally ready for a comedy; for the past few years, her director’s notes have centered on directing tragedies.
“The theatre department season was also due for a farce and we strive to offer a rotation of styles and genres as a part of our programming,” Hutchinson said. “But the choice wasn’t mine alone. When I brought the idea forward to the play selection committee (an advisory board made of students and faculty), they really loved this script and the fun approach to light and dark.”
The audience should expect to be surprised by the elements of light, sound, set, and costuming, and most importantly character and plot development. Beyond the execution of lines, the script itself is remarkably hilarious and unexpected.
“The playwright is a bit of a comic genius (which you wouldn’t necessarily expect from his other plays; “Equus” and “Amadeus”) and I believe his main idea was to give us a peek at what we don’t usually get a chance to see and take delight in the chaos that ensues,” Hutchinson said.
The development of the characters, and their profiles revealed onstage, served as part of the foundation of the production.
“My spine for this play was ‘the more you try to hide, the more you reveal,’” Hutchinson said. “I was interested in not only showing the audience what happens to the characters when they cannot see clearly, I was interested in revealing who the characters are when they didn’t think anyone is watching.”
In the beginning of the production process, the cast engaged in physical work in order to explore the characters from their gaits to their fears.
“We still do this work as part of our warm up for the show, and are still discovering new things about our characters,” cast member Estie Pyper ’16 said. “Being a British play, we also did a lot of dialect work with Sam Norton, who helped us find a unique tone and rhythm to our speech beyond simply speaking in standard British dialect.”
In order to enhance the comedic aspects of the performance, in terms of both the deliverance of the script and the movement on stage, timing is everything.
“As actors, we have to keep in mind the precision of timing for all of the physical gags while still finding delight in everything we do onstage as our characters,” cast member Emily Hooper ’14 said. “It’s a roller coaster of a balancing act and I’ve loved every minute of it.”
Hutchinson noted that this group of actors proved to be dedicated to the process, and to be willing to play.
“It’s such a joy to work on a comedy–no matter what mood I was in that day, coming to rehearsal instantly brightened it,” Pyper said. “From day one, Anjalee emphasized the importance of supporting and taking care of each other, and I find this to be so important, especially with a small cast. We play off of each other’s energy, and find new ways of connecting on stage every day. Even now I find myself desperately trying to suppress laughter while running the show–we just have too much fun with it!”
“It really is a delightfully silly and joyful cast,” Hutchinson said. “I can’t wait until they have an audience to enjoy some of the silliness for themselves.”
When asked what was the best part of creating this production, Hutchinson responded: “Laughing every night. What a gift.”
For the Friday evening performance there is a 2-for-1 ticket sale if you come wearing something from the 60s. Tickets for each performance are $10 / $5.