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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

“The Curtain Falls on the Minstrel Show of Hate…”:

Theatre always begins with noise: Hammers and power drills piecing together the set, sewing machines whirling costumes from raw cloth, lights humming with electric power. An entire world springs into being.

After three months of preparation, a thousand minute details, a thousand last-minute worries still linger. But despite dark humor about sandbags and actors who forget their lines, there’s a certain sense of pride emanating from Director Ron Nash as he watches the seeds he’s sown spring miraculously from the barren stage.

These aren’t only “plays of prejudice,” as Nash calls the Division of Communication and Theatre Arts’ latest offering. They are plays of solidarity, courage and responsibility. They are challenging works, demanding the energy of the actors and the attention of the audience.

Although the three plays depict different nations and span different decades, strong set elements unify all three. The walls of the set pivot into a variety of configurations, but the color – “dead clams with a little yellow mixed in” – remains the same throughout. It’s more pleasing to the eye than that description might let on, and it serves as a reminder that while each play stands on its own, they are also to be considered as a whole. Each play serves as a comment on its predecessor and lays groundwork for the next.

“I was left with the message that it was important to stand up with your convictions,” says Greg Brace, who saw the show on Saturday. “We shouldn’t hide our wrongs; we should confess them.”

The evening opens with “Trifles,” by Susan Glaspell, an early feminist work which explores the interaction of law and individual responsibility. When it becomes clear that the law is incapable of assessing a crime scene completely, the question is raised: Do you dissent from the law? Or does cooperation make you complicit?

While the County Attorney (Amanda Kelly) and the Sheriff (Jennifer Raymond) are played with a particular directness and power, Mr. and Mrs. Hale (Eric Whitner and Kate Plato) are damaged by wheatstraw accents straight out of “Hee Haw.” Keep an eye on Mrs. Peters (Kirsten Wytas), who plays a pivotal role in this short drama.

Following “Trifles,” there are two brief presentations – a poem and a song – by the actors. Since it goes unmentioned in the program, I’ll mention it here that the poem is “A Brave and Startling Truth,” by Maya Angelou, recited by Khalid Hill, Ilar Koci, Lexi Nolan and Kaili Turner. “His Eye is On the Sparrow” is sung by Kaili Turner and Jenna Raymond.

Both works broaden the spectrum of inclusiveness found in the production: Angelou is a well-known black poet and activist. “Sparrow” may be best known as Lauryn Hill’s number in “Sister Act 2,” but it was composed at the turn of the century after an inspiring comment from a woman bedridden for twenty (twenty!) years. Some construction noise from backstage remains audible during the interlude. Enjoy it, even though it takes away from the poetry, because it’s the noise of another world being created.

The second play, “The Jewish Wife,” by Bertolt Brecht, brings us into Germany before the outbreak of World War II. It’s a society that’s slowly fracturing as a result of the Nuremburg Laws, which forbade – among so many other things – interracial marriages between Germans and Jews. Judith (Laura McKenna) struggles to maintain her dignity under both the persecution of the law and her peers. Her husband Fritz (Arielle Goldman), who will remain and perhaps, prosper in Germany, tries to sustain the illusion that their marriage can progress under such terms. It’s a short,