“You’re gonna die like a pig in the mud,” Mae warns Lloyd in act one. The line encapsulates the sentiment of Mud, a play by María Irene Fornés which will be performed on Nov. 3 and 4 at the Hill Theater and that is directed by Caroline Sarkozi ’18 and stars Clare Livingston ’18.
The play is a dark drama that explores the nature of a woman’s struggle in a male-dominated world through the bleak life of Mae, a young woman stuck caring for her ill housemate Lloyd. Mae asks for help reading medical texts from her neighbor Harry in order to diagnose Lloyd’s. A romance ensues between Harry and Mae with disastrous results; Mae finds herself caught in a love triangle with no escape in sight.
There is a hopelessness to Mae’s situation and the actors perform this story with nuance, without seeming melodramatic. Sarkozi and Livingston’s minimalistic approach to costume and set design highlighted the despair of Mae’s circumstances.
Sarkozi and Livingston, who are producing Mud for their senior theses in drama, discovered the play last semester after Sarkozi read it for a drama literature class. “María Irene Fornés is an incredibly innovative playwright who uses a very different technique than the drama department here usually does,” Sarkozi said. “She doesn’t really believe in Aristotelian structure and in other things that we’ve basically foundationally learned is essential for plays.”
The themes of dysfunction and sexuality that the play explores resonated with Sarkozi as a director. “It plays with a lot of ideas of feminism and the whole idea of a woman being trapped with men,” Sarkozi said. “It plays around with a lot of different familial relationships between the characters and it’s also very fluid, which I thought would be an interesting thing to play around with as a director.”
The distinct style of Fornés’ stage directions were striking. Throughout the play there were multiple transitions after an altercation between characters, where the lights dimmed, the sounds of flies buzzing was heard and the actors froze in place. These freezes were an important juxtaposition to the desperate nature of the play and part of what makes it such a different and shocking experience to watch. “This is a very gross, absurd, uncomfortable play and having sporadic freezes forces the audience to look at it and sit with it and think about it,” Sarkozi said. “It’s the right amount of time so that it forces you to sit with something but not to an excruciating extent.”
Mud is not for the faint of heart, but for those who are willing to watch, it will be well worth your time.