Last Friday, I went for a visit to the Playhouse to see The Visit, a relatively dark comedy. The play tells the story of Clara Zachanassian, a woman returning to her childhood town to try to right an injustice done to her many years ago. The production follows her return and the ultimatum she gives the town as a means of seeking her revenge.
As far as the performances given by the actors are concerned, they were for the most part pretty solid. The female lead was perfectly portrayed by Briavel Schultz ’10. Her accent helped add an air of affluence to her role and breathe some life into the heartless woman that is Clara. I didn’t like the character she portrayed, but I couldn’t help but appreciate her in the role. The high school teacher (Ledlie Klosky ’12) also gave a good performance, giving life and emotion to an important character. The Burgomaster (Will Johnson ’13) and the police chief (Nathanael Newby-Kew ’10) gave solid performances; they both were at their best later on in the show as the plot was reaching its climax. The roles of Koby (Joe Valerio ’12) and Loby (Chris Diorio ’11) were very well played despite the peculiarity of their characters. They were supported by strong performances from cast members Patches Kessler ’12 and Bobby Ferris ’13.
However, the role of Anton Schill, played by Nick Knapp ’12, was atrocious. He was flat and his responses to parts of the script were inappropriate given the response expected from a normal person. Knapp in the role is a clear example of how the ability to project one’s voice can’t replace talent (the director was asleep at the wheel when casting this one). My companions and I spent most of the evening trying to decide whether we actually wanted him to turn around and face the audience or not. It also would have been nice if his accent was consistent or less British, given that the play was supposed to be taking place in Germany. Either Klosky or Diorio would have been a far better choice for the lead role.
The technical aspects were wonderful; the lights helped add to the ambiance of the scenes beautifully. The light on the trees in the forest scene set the stage for a bright and airy glen. The Gullen Cathedral scene with the pastor was perfectly lit with a lovely stained glass window adding to the atmosphere. Additionally, the lights were used to add depth to the stage, especially when Clara was on the balcony and lit differently than the rest of the stage to draw attention to her presence.
The background was beautifully painted and assembled in a visually intriguing manner. The town square was very reminiscent of a quaint little village in eastern Europe. It was also fascinating when the set would seamlessly shift from the town to the forest to Anton’s shop. The scenery would fold and unfold, and transform the stage.
Additionally, the sound effects were perfectly timed. The Doppler effect of the train passing through the stop was just perfect. You could almost feel the train pulling up to the stage and coming into the station. The timing for other effects, such as the phone ringing in the police station and the black panther roaring, were right on point.
There were, however, parts of the performance that could have used improvements. The make-up was layered, and the actors were sweating through the coats of oil-based foundation. The colors were very far from matching the skin tones of the actors. Finally, the attempts to create wrinkles and age to some of the actors were very poorly blended, and could use some work in the subsequent productions.
The costumes were period specific and were fairly good for most of the men. However, the women’s costumes were odd. The dress on Emily Fernandes ’13 was just weird; there was something incredibly out of place about the buttons on her plaid dress. And the green suit that was Clara’s staple attire was hideous; it fit poorly and did nothing to covey the affluence that she was meant to have attained. Additionally, the shoes that were indicative of the town’s corruption were a bright shade of God-awful yellow.
The performances by most of the actors were good, and the technical aspects were very well done. The night did end up dragging on, and after two and a half hours, I couldn’t stop checking my phone to see if it was done. While a comedy, the plot was on the darker side, and the result was more of a melodrama due to a lot of over exaggeration, from the shoes to the affluence of the town. Finally, there was more that the director could have done with the production. There was an under-utilized potential for foreshadowing that was rather disappointing.
Overall, it would have been a fairly great show if someone could just get Knapp to actually break a leg. (Can you say understudy?) In all fairness, though, the rest of the cast did a really good job, and you shouldn’t be deterred by one actor. Take the time this weekend to visit the Playhouse.