To enter the theater, audience members had to climb over the stage and walk across the set to their seats. Before the lights went up, Trudy and Max in Love had already created a sense of intimacy.
The play, written by the multi-talented Zoe Kazan (known for her acting roles in The Big Sick and Ruby Sparks) and produced by Stagefemmes, was performed on Thursday and Saturday evening of last week in the Black Box Theater.
Trudy and Max in Love is split into over 20 small vignettes. These small scenes show the couple meeting at dinner or giggling in their apartment.
Sometimes saccharine and sometimes heartbreaking, the four actors brought a unique quality to the space: Miles Shebar ’20 starred as Max, the playboy novelist, and Meredith Rupp ’19 as Trudy, the sociable young-adult author, while Talia Light Rake ’20 and Jeffrey Searls ’19 played multiple characters with ease. The play focused on love as the characters explored the complications and inconveniences of true connection.
The set was sparse and minimalistic. A coffee pot created an office space, a floor lamp created an apartment. During scene changes, the actors made no effort to hide the shifting of tables and the changing of costumes, which they took off a rack of clothes incorporated onto the set.
With the actors forced to both play their characters and present themselves as performers, the production’s self-awareness broke down the barrier between fiction and reality.
The play was entirely student-run, which was new for some of the actors. Shebar found the experience unique. “I hadn’t worked with peers since high school, in terms of direction and production,” he said. “That is what made the whole thing magical for me, to see the show, and be able to work on it with friends.”
Erica Christie ’19, the director of the play, agreed. “Working with your peers as a director, is a really special thing,” she said.
“In the opening note that Zoe Kazan wrote in the play, and what ended up being our tracking theme throughout the process was, ‘Let the seams show’,” Christie said. “Just the idea that it was a simple set, and we weren’t supposed to hide the fact that we were in a theater, and it was really useful that it was in a black box, because there are exit signs everywhere and a full garage … Our goal was to use as much of that as we could to our benefit.”
Because of the play’s relevance to today’s romantic landscape, the actors often struggled to discern the true intentions of their characters, finding new depths a scene or line with each rehearsal.
“There were multiple moments in the show that attested to the page and the stage being two very different things,” Shebar said.
Rupp also highlighted this process. “When you think strictly in terms of motivations and wants and objectives … your judgment of the character, or what you would think otherwise has to go away, and that’s where more truth will come out of it,” Rupp said.
Relying on the actors’ ingenuity and the director’s skill, the play enveloped the audience with its charming dialogue and raw emotion.Christie,Rupp and Shebar cited the genuine romance as especially resonant with Kenyon students.
The play, published in 2016, is timely, and it delves into the complications of modern-day relationships, which on any college campus, mired in hookup culture and a constant pressure to look to the future, feels relatable.