by Sam Roschewsk
Science and theater may seem like utter opposites. But Kenyon College Dance and Dramatic Club (KCDC)’s Principia Romantica, a senior thesis play written by Christine Prevas ’15, is defying expectations. The play opened on Friday, March 28 in the Hill Theater as a triple senior thesis performance written by Prevas, directed by Matt Super ’15 and starring Rosie Ouellet ’15.
The engaging story followed Allison (Ouellet), who desperately tried to get her breakthrough work on dark matter published. Simultaneously, she first encountered one of the play’s major obstacles when charming, engaging physics student Isaac (Conor Tazewell ’15) insisted on helping her with her equation and when once renowned but currently has-been physicist Claudia Reyes (Kelsey Hamilton ’15) betrayed her. Throughout the play, themes of sexism, confidence and trust surfaced, and the audience sympathized with Allison and the obstacles in the way of her success. Prevas’s play pinpointed a relevant issue with its portrayal of women involved in STEM and how their research can be overlooked or questioned simply because of their gender.
Allison’s character was striking in her anger, tenacity and relentless drive for success. Ouellet’s always kept the audience focused on her characters’ singular goal of finding success without sacrificing her integrity. Furthermore, Allison represented a real and admirable woman. She was flawed and overly stubborn, but had a dream she will not give up on for anything. Both Prevas’s writing and Ouellet’s performance helped shape this character into someone realistic and unforgettable.
In contrast, Claudia had an authoritative attitude that challenged Allison’s stubbornness. Hamilton and Ouellet played off each other well in their scenes together, and the tension and power play between their characters was always building. They played the age difference very well, and it was easy to believe that Claudia was 10 to 15 years older than Allison. Hamilton held her character with such poise and a constant lethal expression that she made the audience think she could do anything, no matter how challenging.
Although the script and performance were moving and thought-provoking, the play clocked in at just under an hour, and could have used some extra time to develop the storyline. The play focused around one central goal — to get Allison’s work on dark matter published — but there were some relationships, particularly the newfound friendship between Isaac and Allison, that could have been developed more, which would serve to deepen our understanding of why Allison decided to trust Isaac at the end of the play.
The production itself ran seamlessly. The scene transitions were fast and smooth, and the choice to show scene numbers and titles on a projection screen while playing upbeat music kept the audience engaged even in blackout. Before the play even started, audience members were able to see math equations written in chalk all over the proscenium. The play began and ended with scenes set up like TED Talks in which Claudia and Allison spoke directly to the audience. It gave the feel that the audience was directly involved in the performance, making it an engaging show from the start.
Altogether, the play combined distinct elements including science, math and women’s rights into a cohesive show. It appealed to physics enthusiasts, but wasn’t so math-oriented that it went over everyone else’s heads. Prevas took a pervasive, real-world issue and tailored it to a single, specific level that became the driving force for the main obstacle of the show. Allison may have dark matter, but her character’s ending is anything but dark. The play’s happy ending left viewers satisfied.