Over the weekend, the Kenyon College Dance, Drama & Cinema Club (KCDC) put on a staged reading of an original play titled Devil’s Den written by Kennedy Frazier ’22 for her senior thesis performance. The production, held in the Hill Theater, went well, showcasing Frazier’s beautifully written script with a small but enthusiastic cast.
The cast was composed of five actors plus a narrator who read aloud the stage directions. Nairi Harumi ’24 played the main character, Nel, a little girl who carries around a voice recorder to document her “science experiments.” The play follows her as she tries to discover what happened to her mother Faye (played by Grace Jolliffe ’23), after being sent to live with her grandmother for reasons that were never directly explained. The script deals with difficult topics, primarily her mother’s addiction, but because the story itself is from the perspective of a child, there is a level of uncertainty and innocence that the audience can empathize with. Frazier wrote, in her message to the student body advertising the reading, “Devil’s Den explores the stories we don’t know how to tell our children.”
Harumi portrayed Nel as a loud and confident character, who often faced problems with constant stubbornness. She brought the character to life, giving Nel a boisterous personality, grinning and grimacing at the audience. She was constantly in a state of excitement, which heightened the energy of the production.
With so many young characters in the show, part of what made the story so believable were the actors’ abilities to portray children. While the script dealt with more difficult themes such as Faye’s disappearance, Harumi and the others gave it a lighthearted and funny twist with their youthful mannerisms. Drew Sutherland ’25 was particularly amusing as he portrayed a little kid with an altered voice and an utter lack of understanding of his environment.
The majority of the show consisted of the actors reading directly from the page, facing the audience, but there were a few moments in which the group broke free of this and instead turned to one another to convey the intimacy of a scene. Despite her few lines, Jolliffe was one of the best parts of the show because she would physically act out pivotal moments in the play to give her monologues emotional weight.
The reading ran for around 40 minutes, but it felt even quicker given how swiftly the story progressed from start to finish. At times, it was difficult to follow each scene transition, since they were in quick succession. The format of the performance contributed to this, as a downside of presenting a play as a reading rather than being blocked out. The actors, however, did a good job of changing tone and mood to signify time passing.
The reading was beautifully done; it was definitely a successful thesis production. The emotion of the script came through strongly— delicately balancing darkness and playfulness, which the actors embodied perfectly.