Aging terrifies me. It’s the kind of anxiety that you talk about in sessions with your therapist. So, naturally, I decided to see the Todd performance of Jordan Harrison’s “The Grown-Up,” a play with getting older as a central theme.
The combination of the acting and the set turned what could have been just an average performance into one that was truly magical.
Take-5 student Benjamin Frazer, playing the grandfather, did an incredible job portraying not just a grandfatherly humor, but also a grandfather’s storytelling prowess.
But the person who made the first scene go from good to great was junior Madeleine Fordham, who played Anna Bell. She played the role of Kai’s — the main character played by sophomore Oti Yonwuren — little sister in such a way that I sensed genuine love and caring. Not like in the omg-my-brother-is-so-special way, but in the badass I’ll-save-my-brother-if-it’s-the-last-thing-I-do way.
I was a little mixed at first on Kai. I felt that Yonwuren’s performance on, when Kai is 10, missed the mark. The 10-year-old Kai he portrayed seemed more like he was several years younger. I was expecting a more-mature Kai, given that at 10, most young boys are starting to gain maturity.
I appreciated how Yonwuren was able to change mindsets between scenes in Kai’s life. His performance improved with each scene, with the last two being his best. Those scenes especially were, aside from the first, the most pivotal for his character, and he nailed them. I just wish the Kai I saw at the end of the play was the Kai at the beginning.
I will now move on to briefly discuss the gay part of the show. I say gay in the sense that literally, Kai is gay. And the fact that the gay scenes and characters were not structured in a way that perpetuates stereotypes is a big plus for me. It was refreshing, as a queer person, to see multiple gay scenes and for a play to have a queer character whose identity isn’t ignored or virtually erased as in “Hamilton.” My big complaint is that the word “homosexual” is used, but the play is from only five years ago. I have to question a little the use of a term that is very rapidly becoming dated. But the fact that Kai’s gayness is normalized throughout the play is heartening, and I wish I could see it in other plays.
I just want to take a moment to touch on an origin story timeline, which has scenes weaved in between those of the main story. The effects were excellent, especially the use of the smoke machine to portray fog. I also enjoyed the ladder simulating a crow’s nest.
I was disappointed by the lack of scene changes. The main portion of the set — a table between two couches — remained present, and I was left wishing that there was an easy way for there to be a scene change, because senior Tomas Waz, who played Josef the Fisherman, and Frazer, who played the First Mate, did some brilliant acting in these scenes.
I also feel compelled to mention the narration by the different actors in the play. I don’t usually like anyone other than a character saying their internal thoughts and dialogue, but the cast did an exceptional job at doing this and not just telling, but showing what was going on inside the characters.
I want to continue. I want to speak about how Waz knocked his character of Mr. See out of the park, as did Campus Times columnist and junior Olivia Banc with her role of Rosie. Junior Celia Konowe also deserves praise for taking the roles of minor characters and making them her own. Sadly, just like a play cannot go on forever, neither can this review. And despite my complaints, I had an incredible time. Everyone in the cast and crew deserves a lot of credit. They put on a great rendition of “The Grown-Up” that did a great job of showing that you can never turn back time, no matter how hard you try. They brought a great deal of drama and beauty to the experience of getting old, and every tear I shed towards the end is a testament to just how much Todd outdid itself.