On Friday, the Black Box Theater was packed with students and family members excited to see the Kenyon College Players’ performance of Falsettos.
Upon entering the theater, the audience was taken back to the world of “Falsettoland.” The set design included wooden crates and white canvas strung up on the back wall of the stage, as well as door frames in the main characters’ households containing mezuzahs, tiny cases containing Torah verses that are traditionally hung on doorposts outside Jewish homes. The style of the set helped the audience immerse itself in the scene of New York in March 1979 for “Act 1: March of the Falsettos.”
Falsettos kicks off with quite a dilemma: One of the main characters, Marvin (Clark Webb ’25), has decided to divorce his wife to be with his new partner, Whizzer (Drew Sutherland ’25). Each member of the cast established their characters’ identities early through strong showmanship and flow, evident in their dialogue and projection.
During the first act, Marvin and his ex-wife Trina (Megan Lydon ’25) deal with immense stress from the family tension they are facing. Marvin is pushed to navigate his relationship with Whizzer while trying to build a stronger connection with his son, Jason (Theresa Carr ’23). Trina feels betrayed by Marvin and, due to his infidelity and absence, is confused about what her next move should be. The actors moved from song to song with many quick costume changes, highlighting their endurance and skill.
In the song “I’m Breaking Down,” Trina sings through her distress at her failed marriage and complicated family dynamics. Lydon was able to perfectly capture her character’s emotions through her wonderful vocal talent and acting. “The director gave me one note while blocking the song at first, and it was just to eat a piece of the banana at the end,” Lydon wrote in an email to the Collegian. “They were pretty much like: ‘I trust your instincts; just have at it.’ I was able to really play with the rest of the song, which was so much fun.”
Another important character in the show is the family psychiatrist, Mendel (Ruby Rosenfeld ’24). Rosenfeld did an incredible job balancing the calm presence of a psychiatrist with his inner monologue, nervous about impressing Trina, falling in love with her and doing his job.
The silliest songs in the show was “March of the Falsettos” which included Marvin, Whizzer, Jason and Mendel in fluorescent jumpsuits and skirts. The song included the staccato plunking of the piano to go along with the hilarious choreography and fun.
“Act 2: Falsettoland” is based around the family’s preparations for Jason’s bar mitzvah. The beginning of the second half of the show also introduces “the lesbians next door,” Dr. Charlotte (Sydney Goldstein ’24) and Cordelia (Haley Sorkin ’25). The pair had a natural chemistry which shone during their songs “Something Bad Is Happening” and “Unlikely Lovers.”
The show takes a much more serious tone at the end of “More Racquetball” when, after a match, Whizzer collapses and Marvin rushes to his side. As the show comes to a close, all of the characters come together through hardship as Whizzer grapples with the fact that he is going to die. “‘You Gotta Die Sometime’ is my favorite song to sing,” Sutherland said. “To get into the headspace I went as far from myself as possible and looked outside. And I tried to imagine, as an outsider, how my loved ones would feel.”
During the final scene, the entire room was quiet, and many in the audience were in tears. In a powerful message, Webb beautifully sang “Falsettoland-Reprise.” The quiet, meaningful way he sang encompassed the somber feelings that the characters and audience were feeling. A sign was placed in front of Whizzer’s grave saying: “Silence=Death. Why is Reagan silent about AIDS? What is really going on at the Center For Disease Control and the Vatican? Gays and Lesbians are not expendable…use your power, vote…boycott…defend yourselves…Turn anger, fear, grief into action.”