Section: Arts

Review: Something Bad Happened shows humor, healing

This past weekend, the Kenyon College Dance, Drama and Cinema Club presented Something Bad Happened, an unapologetically comedic and authentic work by MJ Farrell ’24 – making for two evenings full of laughter and reflection.

The play follows Ella, played by Maya van Overbeeke-Costello ’25, an 18-year-old girl  struggling to navigate the world of dating in the wake of a traumatic sexual assault. Despite the serious circumstances, the show delivers a message of hope and persistence — that if we embrace vulnerability and lean on those who truly care about us, no degree of despair can define us. The show’s sharp sense of humor represents this optimism, bringing unexpected levity to the countless obstacles the world throws at Ella: Her new girlfriend, played by Chace Correll ’26, is hilariously self-centered and inconsiderate. Even when Ella’s deceased abuser, played by Sam Melville ’26, reappears to her as a ghost, his awkwardness transforms him into a source of comedy — an impeccable balancing act that speaks to the skill of both the actors and the playwright. The minimalist set design emphasized these performances, while also creating a sense of urgency: The world around Ella was literally changing between scenes, with her caught between all of the pieces.

The play’s comedic moments were only rivaled by its emotional scenes. Through heartfelt therapy sessions and heart-wrenching confessions, the audience learns that Ella’s razor-sharp wit is a defense mechanism. She blames herself for her trauma and cannot fathom a life where she feels happy again. She feels that her recovery is impossible as she tries to accomplish it on her own. Luckily, she doesn’t have to. Her therapist, played by Zelda Saltzman ’24, radiates kindness and acceptance, ending each session by reminding Ella that the assault is not her fault. Ella’s mother, played by Zoey FitzGerald Kidwell ’24, initially acts as comic relief, doting obsessively over her daughter’s well-being and tactlessly invading her romantic life. But when Ella, devoid of all hope, breaks down crying in the kitchen, her mom is there to reassure her. While her tactics are misguided — and hilariously so — her heart is truly in the right place as she urges Ella to stop surrounding herself with people who hurt her.

The play concludes with Ella accepting the fact that she deserves to feel better. Her therapist guides her through a new exercise, where Ella confronts the lingering memory of her abuser and forces him to accept responsibility for his actions. She even breaks up with her girlfriend, acknowledging her own worth. By the time the cast took their bows, the audience stood amazed and applauding. Farrell had transformed the terrible reality of sexual assault into a heartfelt and thoroughly hilarious and inspiring story. Something Bad Happened, like its characters, defies categorization and offers a nuanced, inspiring perspective on the challenges of love.

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