You know how when you read a beautiful poem and while you’re reading, you get the chills? And even though you’re not exactly sure what it all means, you find yourself in awe of the words and how they were arranged just so? “The Puzzle Locker,” the newest play at Todd Theatre, is very much like that.

Tonight is the world premiere of “The Puzzle Locker.” It was written by award winning playwright W. David Hancock for the students at UR. The cast of 17 spent last semester with Hancock developing the script and this semester with Director Nigel Maister working on the production. The result is the norm for Todd Theatre productions – bizarre and wonderful.

The play is, in essence, a bunch of crap all mashed together. The cast of characters includes a state trooper who is in love with a dead cheerleader, Bigfoot, a soccer mom with breast cancer and a handful of discarded orphans, including one who dresses as a superhero and a boy who is either enamored with squirrels or is one himself – it was unclear.

Each student is seemingly perfect for the role they play because the roles were, in fact, made for them. Hancock took into account each actor’s personality when developing the characters that they would play. The cast is truly an ensemble, with no stand-out “lead” or “star.” However, I believe certain actors were grossly underused, including sophomore Katie McManus as the dead cheerleader, freshman Jed Lubin as the squirrel-lover-boy and, most of all, sophomore Eugene Vaynberg as some sort of indie-rocker orphan ghost. Vaynberg was sorely missed each time he exited the stage.

The play is a dirty one. I’m not speaking metaphorically, although there are several make- out sessions, and senior Kelly Smith spends the majority of the play in just her underwear. Rather, I’m speaking literally – half the set is a campground covered entirely by masses of dirt. Most of the actors – and some of the audience if you’re not careful – are filthy by the end of the play, and I left the theater with the intense desire to take a shower.

Todd Theatre shows are becoming harder and harder to review, as there are only so many times you can say, “it’s not about understanding it” or “there’s more to these plays than the plot.”

“Two percent of students here will appreciate this,” Hancock said. “Film and TV are easy to watch because the public is trained to watch it. You haven’t been trained to watch ground-breaking theater and that’s why people often claim to not understand it.”

I’m not trying to sell “The Puzzle Locker” to anyone. I’m not going to waste my breath – or ink – telling you to go see it, even though you won’t understand it. Hell, I even found myself zoning out towards the end. There’s only so long you can pay attention when you have no idea what’s happening. I will say, however, that although strange, the show is extremely good. The student body here is starting to get a reputation of being afraid to try new things. All I can say is, do yourself a favor and try to counter that reputation and add to Hancock’s two percent.

“The Puzzle Locker” is being performed at Todd Theatre from April 21 to 24 and from April 28 to May 1. Tickets are available at the Common Market for $6.

Mittelman can be reached at

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