It was sunny as the audience gathered, but the sky darkened like lights in a theater as the actors prepared. Ambient music played from a speaker emerging from a third floor window of Leonard Hall. Kenyon students led their parents to join the audience, all clad in sweatshirts and huddled together on blankets.
The movie “Call Me by Your Name” is set during the summer in northern Italy, but it was cold on Sunday when the performers took to the lawn outside of Leonard for a performance of the story reimagined through dance. The cold was soon forgotten as the audience was swept into the sexy, vibrant world of director Nairi Harumi ’24, complete with iconic Italian symbols: roses, cigarettes and, of course, pizza. Harumi took full advantage of the location, with actors and dancers bursting from the doors of Leonard and bicycles pedaling through the scene on the offshoots of Middle Path. “Having the show outside provides a very simple and natural but still very engaging setting, without us having to add much to it,” she wrote in an email to the Collegian. “I just thought the southern dorms would be the perfect place to have Call Me By Your Name, with Leonard as the beautiful home of Elio’s family and the grass in front as the stage. I don’t think it could have taken place anywhere else.”
Sam Ehrlich ’24 was a perfect Elio: a listless, shoeless tortured artist, and Jack Wessels ’24 was a perfect Oliver with his easygoing, American attitude. Both actors were supremely talented, despite neither having any dance experience. Additionally, the ensemble was full of energy and smoothly coordinated as they performed Harumi’s beautiful choreography.
The dances were accompanied by audio clips from the film, which the actors mouthed as they smoked, drank and chatted. Palpable chemistry flickered between Elio and Oliver, especially in one of the first scenes, which was set in the water. Dancers draped in flowing blue scarves, courtesy of costume designer Greer Morgan ’26, made up the waves, pulling the two apart and together in a physical representation of their yearning. The scene ended with the two lovers standing longingly in puddles of blue fabric. In this, as Harumi says, the dance was an “incredible collaboration between visual art and movement.”
One of the show’s highlights occurred after the couple made love for the first time in a powerful dance scene. Oliver whispered to Elio, “Call me by your name, and I’ll call you by mine.” He then left Elio alone on the bed, holding a peach. Immediately, dancers emerged from the bed and whirled around him, silks the color of fire streaming from their bodies. Elio was literally carried away in the peach-colored flames of his own passion for Oliver, who, upon his return, made eye contact with Elio and took a bite of his peach (played by a tomato in Harumi’s production). The audience cheered as they ran offstage, hands clasped together.
Call Me by Your Name, despite the sexually charged dance scenes, was primarily about love and loss. This proved especially true in their parting scene, as Oliver dropped his bag to the ground and wrapped his arms around Elio: there was nothing lustful there, merely love. After Oliver left, Elio’s father carried him as if he were a child in order to soothe his pain. Gideon Malherbe ’24 shone as Elio’s father, Professor Sami Perlman, as he delivered a powerful speech: “If there is pain, nurse it. And if there is a flame, don’t snuff it out. Don’t be brutal with it.”
Harumi’s Call Me by Your Name reimagined the movie’s concluding phone call, when Oliver confessed to Elio that he was getting married to a woman back in America, with a final dance scene. Rather than through dialogue, Elio begged Oliver to leave his fiancée for a life with him in a devastating dance number. They rolled across the grass, leaves catching in their hair and dirt splattering across their bodies, until Oliver flung Elio off and left him for the final time.
In an email to the Collegian, Harumi reflected upon the show: “It was truly the most beautiful thing in the world to me to see people in the audience and in the cast actually crying and so moved by the end of the show, so I just hope that they felt something raw and beautiful within themselves watching. I’ve really never done anything quite like this before, and that is genuinely just insane to me, that we had the power to make people feel something so deeply from the show.”
Although the story was set in Italy, moving it to the lawn in front of Leonard lent it the feeling of a secret, hidden romance in a forest. Rather than copying the film, Harumi reinterpreted and built upon the original story. In the cold Ohio air, the heat of Elio and Oliver’s love radiated from the grassy stage to the audience, creating an unforgettable experience. Just as two unlikely lovers found a safe haven in one another, so many performers with a variety of different backgrounds found their place onstage (or rather, on the lawn). Harumi’s Call Me by Your Name was a true showcase of talent, passion and the power of dance.
Arts editor Dorothy Yaqub ’26 was in the cast of Call Me by Your Name.