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Hot 'Morning After'

By Marvin Astorga

Mixing elements of Shakespeare, Vaudeville theater, Peter Pan, and Natural Born Killers, Morning after Optimism is not a play for the faint of heart. In lesser hands, this play could have been a dismal experience. However, Kate Robbins', SY '02, senior project is a successful combination of fascinating acting with creative and insightful direction and design. It's one thing to put on a convincing production of Our Town, but it is a wholly different task to take on Tom Murphy's play, which takes the audience on a demon hellride through a world where one is taunted by unreachable ideals and delusions.

The play focuses on two real-world characters: James (Ben Vershbow, BR '02), a dapper and twisted pimp, and Rosie (Robbins), his pseudo-spouse of 19 years. The pair is running from a series of convoluted problems, and they find themselves renting a cabin in the backwoods of an unspecified land. They encounter Anastasia (Liz Meriwether, TC '04), a nymph-like orphan, and Edmund (Fran Kranz, MC '04), a sword-toting prince searching for his long-lost brother, who together come to represent all of James' and Rosie's shortcomings. Stretching over two "mournings," tangled love and attraction combine with entrenched hate and jealousy into a Midsummer Night's Dream gone haywire.

James hides his self-doubt behind corny jokes and axiomatic statements; Vershbow's portrayal subtly manages always to show the internal struggle going on behind the showman. The other characters follow his energy. Robbins' Rosie, who gives the play a very special climax of her own sort, shows the wear and tear of living in a loveless relationship as she becomes fascinated with Edmund. Kranz, again showing himself to be one of Yale's most promising young actors, gives Edmund the complex sensitivity and naïveté the role calls for. Meriwether's innocent Anastasia rounds out the cast as both Rosie's antithesis and the heartthrob of Edmund and James.

Director Nate Schenkkan, BR '02, has clearly gone a long way toward bringing out the questions and concerns raised by the script. He has also endowed the show with an eerily vaudevillian quality through the vanity-bulb light cast upon the characters from the lip of the stage, their exaggerated and caricatured movements, and their asides to the audience. Indeed, Vershbow and Kranz fall gracefully into their Vaudeville roles in a riveting fencing scene near the end of the play, an end which is thematically gratifying without indulging in melodramatic tendencies. Morning After Optimism walks securely in the world of the sinister and reprobate without losing itself.

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