“SMASH” brings the circus to Cloak

Jess Vogt

“A bourgeoisie circus with a proletariat sideshow” – the intriguing description of the theater department’s upcoming production of “SMASH”.
A play by Jeffrey Hatcher based on the book “An Unsocial Socialist” by George Bernard Shaw, “SMASH” promises a delightful mix of satire, serious idealism and general wit.
“SMASH” is set in England at the fictitious all-girls school Alton College in 1910.
It centers on the character of Sydney Trefusis, a vehement socialist who leaves his bride because, in his own words, “Love and politics do not mix.”
Trefusis, played by Asher Perlman, then poses as a gardener at Alton and begins to inspire revolution in the mind of Agatha Wiley, a rabble-rouser in her own right.
Agatha, played by Kate Kirkland, and her cohorts at the school, Jane Carpenter and Gertrude Lindsay, played by Cara Wantland and Brianne Mueller, seem to exist to be the bane of existence for the school’s headmistress, played by Tav Driscoll.
But when Agatha’s cousin and Sidney’s former bride Henrietta, played by Nora Taylor, shows up on the scene, the action takes an unforeseen turn, and with cunning and deliberation the show winds to an unexpected but tumultuous close.
“It’s a show of extremes,” said director Kathy Privatt. “And yet there are some really fundamental ideas about human existence.” In today’s society, she added, it just becomes about change.
“We think, let’s tell a story that lets us laugh a bit about what we do when faced with change,” she continued.
The characters in “SMASH” are constantly faced with changing situations, ideas and even identities. And often, their self-analysis is stunningly accurate.
“These characters always say exactly what they should have said,” said Privatt. “You know those times when you walk away from a situation and suddenly think, ‘Ah! That’s what I should have said!’? These characters always say it.”
Actor Pete Welch, who plays raging capitalist Sir Charles Brandon in the production, agrees.
“Once you understand the character you’re playing and how they act, you can begin to guess what they would say.”
“The way the words are put together is at the same time a fabulous gift and a tremendous challenge,” continued Privatt.
Putting together the show in a little over a month has been a process for the cast and crew, and everyone’s dedication was required from the get-go.
“This is a very capable cast, and they have been able to handle the challenges of the show very well,” affirms Stage Manager Brianna Stapleton.
Privatt added that without the cast’s 110-percent commitment, the show would not have been possible. Both cast and crew have had to apply prior skills and find new tools “to explore the world of words and world of actions,” said Privatt.
“Theater is always kind of a visual metaphor,” she said. And the bright colors of the costumes and set mimic those of a circus, with the wordplay providing the comedic platform on which the actors perform. “SMASH” is sure to delight audiences and keep them laughing and talking for hours.
Performances are 8 p.m. on Feb. 15, 16 and 17, and 3 p.m. Feb. 18 in Cloak Theatre.
Tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for senior citizens and students, and free for Lawrence faculty, staff and students.