By Hannah Hippen
With minimalist settings and props, the newest additions to the Kenyon theater community staked their claim with a witty and appropriately ridiculous debut this semester. Six directors, 25 actors and one technical crew joined forces to present all-freshman Renegade Theater’s witty and appropriately production of Durang/Durang, a collection of six comedic sketches by Christopher Durang.
The lights dimmed and James Wojtal ’18 sauntered in as Mrs. Sorken. In heels, winged eyeliner, stockings and a 1920s ensemble, Wojtal introduced the mood as both nonsensical and clever in his one-woman monologue about escaping into theater. Wordplay and puns ran rampant and captured the audience. Wojtal, however, never let the writing overshadow his charming characterization of a classic and aging prima donna. “It was all Lucas [O’Brien ’18],” Wojtal said, crediting his director. “He walked me through every step of the script, making sure I was totally in the character. The show was all about the acting.”
And it really was. The night was dependent on the skill of the actors. Costuming was fitting and props were used when necessary, but everything was minimal in comparison to the over-the-top comedic style. The style was especially suited to the parodies that comprised Act I, For Whom the Southern Belle Tolls and A Stye of The Eye, loosely constructed satires of The Glass Menagerie and Agnes of God, respectively. The two pieces were sure to please the psychology and English majors attending that night. The audience couldn’t seem to get enough of the outrageously dysfunctional families, the misadventures of the mentally ill and characters’ own references to the literary symbols of their storylines.
Vocal acting and physical comedy made the jokes sing, but Fletcher Hartman ’18 stole the show. His portrayal of the obsessive and phobic Lawrence kept the audience in gut-busting laughter, and he even cracked a giggle himself a few times. His expressive features and timing along with a will to throw himself around the stage like a rag doll shocked the audience. Hopefully, his outlandish characters will be put to use again soon.
After intermission, another aging diva took the stage. Accompanied by the Narrator, Mark Ashin ’18, this diva took the audience through her trials of a morbid butler, incestuous familial relations, three estranged children (or perhaps one with three estranged personalities). Nina in the Morning, directed by Caroline Sarkozi ’18, dragged the audience back down the rabbit hole of Nina’s sexual and psychological timeline. Luca Agunos ’18 and Mark Ashin ’18 made stand-out performances as the children and Narrator. Their response to Nina’s (Annie Devine ’18) romantic advances made the audience blush and bark with mad laughter. The following sketch also tested the impact of psychosis in romance, in Wanda’s Visit.
When Wanda (Emma Longstreth ’18) came to visit, the glassy-eyed and bombastic actress seemed certifiably insane. Her goofy history drove the audience crazy and almost drove apart a happy couple (Emma Dunlop ’18 and Billy Weber ’18). The romantic mood continued, when Business Lunch at the Russian Tearoom brought the night to a close.
Over-the-top acting and minimal settings balanced perfectly with the chaotic comedy, gender inversion and general madness of Durang/Durang. The tech crew and effects were subtle but solid and provided a backbone. Transitions were quick, and the jokes came quicker. The actors left only enough time for the audience to catch their breath, and begin laughing all over again. If Saturday night was any indication, the first years will keep Kenyon laughing until graduation.