On Friday, Feb. 7, senior Emma Brayndick presented and performed in David Auburn’s short play “Fifth Planet” as her senior project, acting alongside freshman Jacob Dalton. The play was a combined effort with senior Shallion Dixon directing the production; Dalton and Brayndick in the two roles, Mike and Veronica; junior Kayleigh Kitzman and sophomore Aiden Campbell as stage manager and assistant stage manager; junior Nathan Lawrence as lighting designer and junior Kelsey Wang as costume designer. Despite the small number of roles in the play, the cast and crew pulled off a compelling production that highlighted Brayndick’s performance abilities and Dixon’s direction, as the play served as their senior experiences.
The story was a curious construction in which two people unintentionally run into each other over the course of a year on a hill near a planetarium and form an unlikely friendship. Veronica is an astrologer for the planetarium while Mike is a janitor for the institution. Mike is an avid but amateur astrologer who sits on the hill with a small telescope and tries to spot new things among the stars. The first part of the play revolves mainly around her instruction of Mike’s rudimentary attempts at stargazing and her amusement at his lack of education in the field. This serves to reveal small aspects of their lives and personalities to the audience.
As the play progresses, we discover Veronica’s adulterous relationship with her boss and Mike’s troubles with his wife, first as separate entities and then as overlapping issues as Mike loses his job due to a problem that was actually the fault of Veronica and her boss. We see the conflict between the two characters develop as Mike discovers that Veronica is not willing to help Mike as she does not consider him to be intellectual enough to be her friend. However, these conflicts begin to solve themselves through her continued interactions with Mike and her own discovery that her boss is deceptive and incompetent. The play concludes with the two overcoming their various crises throughout the past year and meeting as friends on the hill.
Overall, the play was difficult to pull off, as it takes place in one location with two characters for the entirety of the production. However, Brayndick and Dalton’s performances provided the audience with enough zest to keep the play interesting. I took issue with the playwright’s construction and found myself visibly frustrated when Veronica failed to re-secure Mike’s job after he came to her aid. The simple fact that it frustrated me is, in my opinion, a demonstration that the play evoked emotion from the audience. Brayndick’s performance was impressive in that she managed to make herself subtly dislikable in her role, which I believe requires a certain proficiency in theatre. Dalton’s performance was also notable, especially as a freshman. His projection and expression of emotion was jarring and realistic when we watched him after a fight with his wife or the loss of his job.
Ultimately, this senior experience was a success. While I didn’t fall in love with the repertoire, it was executed extremely well by two talented actors and under the direction of Dixon.