Huenbert, directed by Caroline Sarkozi ’18, tells the story of Lewis, a man waiting for someone to save him from his monotonous life.
Written by and starring a compellingly frenetic Isaiah Stavchansky ’18, the play was staged on Saturday, Oct. 14 and Sunday Oct. 15 in the Black Box Theater.
Lewis is an engineering student, following “people telling him what to do,” but something changes when he meets Huenbert. They go to Chinatown, where Huenbert shows him the euphoria and excitement of his lifestyle. They give each other candy cigarettes, spend an afternoon together and part ways, presumably never to meet again. Huenbert becomes an object of obsession for Lewis, who then becomes a lost man searching for the excitement that Huenbert showed him.
The action starts with Stavchansky lying on a block, the single component of the set, designed by Sarkozi for the Huenbert run. It’s a simple set that is designed to fade into the background. Stavchansky stands, turning immediately to the audience. He is the only cast member of three who can break the fourth wall and see the audience. It is unclear if his audience interaction makes him a chorus, an actor or a madman.
Then, Clare Livingston ’18 enters as Cecilia, a woman meeting her brother for a weekend vacation. Billy Weber ’18 enters as her brother Mosby.
He has something to tell his sister, but the audience never finds out what it is. Maybe someone has died. Maybe Mosby is moving away. The moment is written off as Lewis interrupts the two.
Waiting on edge for his lost friend Huenbert, Lewis connects with Cecilia. She shows him kindness. Mosby, on the other hand, finds Lewis, with his ever-present bicycle helmet and sudden jerking lunges, unsettling. Mosby represents the audience’s uncomfortable feelings.
“When someone approaches you on the street you have this ‘stranger danger,’” Stavchansky said in an interview. “It’s similar to when an actor is coming up to you [as an audience member]. You get this feeling of, ‘I am here to watch, not to participate.’” When the barrier between watching and doing is broken, we get Huenbert.
The play is snappy. It avoids being boring, despite its simple plot, due to its repeated breaking of the fourth wall. The show provides a nuanced reading of obsession and euphoria as a burgeoning young student wondering where they belong in the world. Lewis is never crazy, never corrupt, always real. Stavchansky keeps the audience on its toes and makes the performance memorable, all within a single act of thirty minutes.