By Julia Waldow, Design Editor
“Everybody hates their parents,” Windsong (Elizabeth Gambal ’14) claimed in Rebecca Gilman’s play The Crowd You’re in With.
Windsongs’ comment, said in the company of her husband, her friends and her friends’ landlords at an Independence Day barbeque, touched on the play’s main concepts of becoming parents, relating to one’s family and navigating the balance between being an individual and being part of a herd. Presented by StageFemmes and directed by Casey Griffin ’14, the well-acted and -directed performance encouraged the audience to question the degree to which others influence people’s ideologies.
Performed April 17 and 19 at 7:00 p.m. in the Hill Theater, the play opened with pleasant conversation between three couples living in Chicago. However, tensions soon escalated as the chatter gravitated toward the benefits and costs of starting a family.
Jasper (Joseph Randles ’16) and his wife Melinda (Natalie Margolin ’14) have been trying to conceive, but to no avail. Their friends Dan (Tristan Biber ’17) and Windsong are expecting a daughter. Melinda and Jasper’s landlords Karen (Emma Strickler ’14) and Tom (Ryan Drake ’14) are adamantly opposed to both having children in addition to having Melinda, Jasper lives under their roof. Another brief party-goer, Dwight (Josh Segal ’14), has more of an interest in drinking good beer than thinking about kids and their “PB-and-J booger tsunami.” As the couples clash over topics ranging from Bob Dylan to preschool, they blur the line between acting like adults and acting like children, making the audience question who should be parenting whom.
Throughout the cast’s performance, conflict bubbled beautifully under the surface before erupting fully like a volcano, spewing forth slamming doors and hateful words. The casting was spot-on, as the actors and actresses perfectly channeled the anxiety, angst and anger involved in struggling to accept others’ viewpoints while also clinging to their own. The instigators of most of the conflict, Strickler and Drake particularly stood out as helping to craft a tense viewing experience.
Aggression escalated especially high between Dan and Karen about issues from politics to dress code. “He doesn’t get to talk to me like I’m 12,” complained Dan, to which Karen retorted, “Maybe it’s because you dress like you’re 12.” The characters’ inability to cope with conflict in a mature manner summoned forth the question of how they might be able to cope with raising children in the future.
The play had many strong points, including the set design, but the ending fell flat. After Jasper changes his mind and tells Melinda he does not want her to have a child, Melinda storms out and Jasper commands himself out loud to “go after her.” But he doesn’t. The curtain drops, leaving the audience confused over the couple’s future. The rest of the play feels fully developed and smooth, but the abrupt ending left viewers feeling unfulfilled and uncertain.
Other than this shortcoming, The Crowd You’re in With expertly tackled the challenges associated with bringing a new life into this world while maintaining one’s own quality of life. Through an exciting plot and unique characters, the performance encouraged its audience to investigate why and what people want during their lifetime.