At 8 p.m. on the nights of Feb. 17 and 18, the lights dimmed in Gund Gallery’s Community Foundation Theater. An ambitious production was about to begin. With a runtime of just under an hour, Do Big Kids Cry? attempted to cover a lot of ground in a short time frame. The playwright, MJ Farrell ’24, wrote in a program note, “I wanted to explore the feeling of being a newfound adult.” Director Katie Genzer ’25 rose to the challenge of bringing Farrell’s script to life, and the final product reflected both the students’ hard work and the actors’ talent and dedication.
The play alternated between brief comedic skits and more serious monologues in which each character spoke to the audience, attempting to answer the play’s titular question. At first, the skits seemed disconnected from one another. How could a disastrous dinner party, a gender-segregated supermarket and Capri Suns possibly be related? However, as the play progressed, it became clear that all of the skits were leading to one culminating scene: a wedding where all of the characters declared their love for each other, both platonic and romantic, and agreed to all marry each other. It was a chaotic display that could put Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night to shame. The audience laughed uproariously, and the crowning moment came when Jay (played by Reily Scott ’26) passionately vowed to wed the basketball he’d been carrying since the beginning of the play.
While the humor was entertaining, it was the monologues that formed the emotional center of the play. Each time a character stood at the podium, the stage lights went dark and a single green light illuminated the actor while they delivered a poignant monologue in response to the question, “Do big kids cry?” The answers varied. Samuel (Matthew Freeman ’24) shared an anecdote about pretending to be a superhero as a way of coping with absent parents, while Sophie (Charlie Sacha ’26) grappled with the trauma of having a diet-obsessed mother. All the actors displayed an impressive emotional vulnerability that made it hard to tell where performance ended and reality began.
This was certainly due in part to the collaborative environment through which the play was written (or rather, rewritten). In the note included in the program, Farrell informed the audience that they originally wrote the play for Bag of Lights Theater, a performance group founded by Kenyon alumni, which performed it in New York City over the summer. However, feeling that the play was lacking in purpose, Farrell collaborated with the Kenyon College Players to rework it. They worked closely alongside the actors and production team to craft a narrative that felt genuine. The monologues, initially based on the personal experiences of the New York cast, were rewritten to more strongly relate to the current cast of Kenyon students. This collective effort was characterized by the actors’ use of scripts while performing their monologues; the cast and crew were fine-tuning each line until the last possible moment.
In addition to explaining their process and thanking their collaborators, Farrell used the note in the program to inform the audience that Do Big Kids Cry? is still a work in progress. “This play is not over,” they wrote. “Perhaps I will scrap everything and start over from the beginning after this run.”
This unconventional approach makes Do Big Kids Cry? a uniquely vulnerable production. In drawing so heavily upon their own lived experiences and those of the actors, Farrell has created a play that inspires self-reflection and challenges the notion of what it means to grow up. Oh, and it was really funny.