Part one of this year’s The Opposite of People’s Fall Collection unveiled itself as a two-hour rumpus of intense hilarity and delight. The scripts of Lanford Wilson’s ‘The Great Nebula in Orion” and ‘Woody Allen’s Riverside Drive” were magically brought to life by senior Catherine Crow, freshman Annalise Baird, sophomores Stella Kammel and Mel Balzano and junior Renato Rengifo.

‘The Great Nebula in Orion” highlights a chance encounter between two former college friends both approaching 40 who last saw each other six years ago. Carrie (Crow) and Louise (Baird) spend an afternoon together reliving old memories and attempting to reconnect. Though seemingly tense, envious and uncomfortable, the women settle into their reunion with the eventual comfort and desire to confide in one another.

‘She’s a little tight ass, but she loosens up,” Louise said. ‘Not such a bad egg; we had some good times.”Perhaps what is most distinct and astounding about this play is the style in which it is written. Wilson sets up a world where the characters make constant asides to the audience, yet these asides strangely enough can be heard by other characters in the play. Consequently, the audience felt instantly welcomed.

‘From the first time I read the play, I knew I was working with a writer who really knew what he was doing with every syllable of dialogue, every stage-direction and every punctuation mark,” director and senior Phil Witte said. ‘Nothing was wasted; every bit was carefully employed for a very particular purpose. For instance, at one point Wilson has a character pause in her speech but he doesn’t write simply “pause’ he writes “count six’ indicating that Wilson was asking for not just any pause, but just the right one.”
Inhabiting Wilson’s precise vision, Crow and Baird successfully brought to life the intricacies of Louise and Carrie’s friendship.

Crow’s performance brilliantly captured the depression and loneliness so painfully felt by her character, while Baird made a smooth TOOP debut by inhabiting her role as Louise with flair and conviction.

‘This is an old joke,” she said. ‘It’s not going to be… funny, particularly.”

‘The Great Nebula In Orion” proved to be a lot of hydrogen gas lit up by a couple of stars: Crow and Baird, a winning pair.

The second half of the night left the audience roaring at the insanity and paranoia inevitably conveyed in Woody Allen’s ‘Riverside Drive” (directed by sophomore Adam Lanman), which is both mildly disturbing and undeniably hilarious. Kammel ignited the character of Freddy Savage, a homeless genius who stalks a screenwriter for weeks, convinced that he has stolen Freddy’s idea in fact, his life. Savage elevates his personality, which he believes to be extraordinary, with arrogantly quirky one-liners, such as ‘I, on the other hand am a true original, like Stravinsky… or ketchup.”

The screenwriter, named James L. Swain (Rengifo), and Freddy Savage (Kammel) meet and discuss their business on ‘Riverside Drive” an area overlooking the Jersey shore, which is contaminated and ugly. Swain waits to meet with his mistress to call off their affair and go back to his wife. Savage claims that ‘someone must be cooking with a microwave” that sends him rays full of creative ideas. In the midst of all the chaos, the play is complicated by making light of murder as a means of fixing things. Freddy’s unorthadox solution to the problem of the mistress is to kill her.

The audience got a kick out of the twist a response the cast never could have expected during its first rehearsals.

‘The play seemed funny during our first read-through, but we never could have imagined the reception during opening night it seemed like the audience never stopped laughing,” Rengifo said.

‘It’s not something we realized during rehearsal, because Adam’s focus was never on making people laugh. He wanted to recount this bizarre story honestly, and that realism is what makes the play funny.”

Miller is a member of
the class of 2011.

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