This past week, Drama House visitors had the pleasure of watching two original plays written and performed by members of The Opposite Of People (TOOP), the University’s student-run theatre troupe. The first play, “Sophia,” written by senior May Zhee Lim, focused on a mortician’s relationship with her father and death, while in the second, “Portrait,” KEY student Stella Kammel wrote about the faltering trust two spouses have in their marriage.
Junior Devin Goodman and freshman Justin Delgado designed the single-room sets for each play, each filled to the brim with props by freshman Alex White. “Sophia” took place in the sparse embalming basement-studio of a funeral home and “Portrait” in the large, furnished Greenwich Village apartment of the main characters. Sound designer and freshman Brenton Whiting chose music for the shows, which included poignant film score pieces and light oldies hits.
The titular character in “Sophia” is a young mortician consumed by her work, fending off the suitors that William, her aging father, brings her. But a spark is lit when her father brings Nico, an aspiring doctor who needs help conquering his fear of cadavers before his first gross anatomy class. Throughout the show, the bodies that Sophia embalms come to life on her table, giving her different perspectives on the meaning of death. In the end, Sophia has to make up her own mind on death’s meaning as she comes to terms with the sudden passing of her own father.
Sophomore Christina Amaral gave a strong performance in her portrayal of Sophia, who grew from a logically inclined pragmatist into an emotionally motivated individual dealing with the uncertainty of death. Angel Morales, also a sophomore, adeptly played William as a caring father who kept the truth about his condition from his daughter in order to protect her. Freshman Mario Gambino, playing the character of Nico, was quite adorable in his fear of bodies. Sophomores Katherine McCorkle and Emma Guilfoyle, in addition to Brenton Whititng, gave each of their dead characters a liveliness that contrasted with the quiet space of the mortuary. Lim’s story was compelling, but unfortunately its brevity left some characters underdeveloped. With a longer timeline, some important themes could have been fleshed out more completely.
“Portrait” puts the marriage of Sally and Ben under a microscope. From the onset, there is a clear tension between the two, highlighted in moments like when Ben insists that Sally not cut open an avocado with a large knife for fear that it might harm their unborn child. Into the night, Sally’s sister Laurie turns up out of the blue and strikes a nerve in Ben with her loud antics. When she explains to Sally that her fiancé cheated on her, Ben can’t help but compare her situation to his own. In the anxious moment Laurie scurries out and the two begin to fight. As they start to cool down their temperament, their friend Liv bursts in, looking for support following her own failed relationship. The two join forces to comfort her but continue to fight after she leaves, until they both realize that they have a child to think about.
Freshman Ian Von Fange skillfully brought to life Ben’s subversive and passive-aggressive abusiveness that brings Sally’s unhappiness. Senior Zoe Netter brought out Sally’s tortured qualities, never for a moment losing the sympathy of the audience even as the character recounted her infidelity. Freshman Leah Kesselman portrayed Laurie with the perfect amount of outrageousness, while junior Kathryn Loveless represented Liv’s tumultuous emotions naturally. Kammel expertly captured the vacillating emotional states that a disagreement between lovers brings (the shouting matches, back-to-back with fits of laughing) and her inclusion of Liv as a foil to Sally and Ben’s marriage was intriguing. The only complaint that can be said is that the story stopped suddenly at an equivocal moment when the audience yearned for a resolution.
As the director, Devin Goodman utilized the whole space of the stage and had his characters tap into a diverse range of emotions. Both May Zhee Lim and Stella Kammel produced engaging scripts whose premises rested on the cracks that appear in the foundational trust of a relationship. In one story, not even death can overcome the love that a daughter has for her father. In the other, only new life can keep two lovers together.
Libbey is a member
of the class of 2016.