VISTA Productions's The Play That Goes Wrong
Thomas Lund '23
After two years of canceled shows, outdoor performances, and film-only showings, this fall the VISTA Theatre has put on their return to live indoor audiences with their production of The Play That Goes Wrong. With a return to traditional shows, several unique challenges presented themselves, but also new opportunities presented themselves.
The Play That Goes Wrong, written by Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer, and Henry Shields, is a newly adapted one-act show. It features slapstick style, fast-paced, physical comedy, and received much acclaim on and off of Broadway. The play tells the story of the Cornely Polytechnic Drama Society, an ambitious group of underprepared actors, who are putting on the fictional play The Murder at Haversham Manor, by Susie H.K. Brideswell. As the name suggests, everything that could go wrong went wrong. Sets fell, props got misplaced, lines were said out of order, fires got started, actors were knocked out, and much more. Every scene was thoroughly packed with laughs, from using a flower pot as a notebook to looping one scene several times because an actor kept forgetting their line. By the time the murderer was revealed, the audience was so occupied by a failing fake mustache, two actresses playing the same part, and a chicken used as a gun, that the identity of the murder was the least important event to take place on stage.
With an audience in the house, comedies take on an entirely different life. When an audience can give live feedback to a bit, or give an unexpected reaction to one part of the play, the comedy is kept alive and dynamic. It is this dynamism that has been missing over the last several performances, where cameras and birds might make up a significant part of the audience. Going to a live comedy takes full advantage of this audience interaction that has been lacking over the last few years, and elevates it to another level. If that audience reaction was anything to judge by, the choice was a resounding success.
To put this play on, every character had to perform twice. Once to put on The Play That Goes Wrong and once to put on The Murder at Haversham Manor, the play-within-the-play. From Perkins the butler, as eager as inexperienced, to Inspector Carter, trying to keep his show from falling completely apart, each character had to balance their character within the show with another character, putting this show on for a fake audience.
Putting on a one-act play also allowed the production to be one of discovery and learning. With less of a constraint placed on the structure of the play, and with fewer lines to worry about, the cast was able to experiment, talk, and rediscover what makes live plays special over other performance genres. This choice gave both the actors and the audience a strong taste of the live experience they missed during the Pandemic.
With one of three performances complete, it can safely be said that we are all waiting to see where VISTA Productions takes Full Circle: Road Trip, and The Sound of Music.
Squid Game - A Sinister Parallel to Society
Alex Miller '23
Brutal, intense, gruesome, and horrifying. There are no other words to capture the essence of this truly shocking and vicious series. While the latest Netflix thriller was captivating and entertaining while watching it, I was silently relieved upon its conclusion. Don’t get me wrong, though: I don’t regret watching it. I was intrigued while viewing, but the plot and truths behind it were hard to swallow.
Based upon gruesome twists of children’s games in order to relieve one’s debt, the show was, at the very least, unsettling. Due to the many additional subplots, including the harvesting and distribution of human organs from live subjects, there was no escape from this unnecessary mortality. This spine-chilling premise of people choosing to very tangibly risk their lives in order to pay off their debts creates a deep connection with modern society and the immense consolidation of power by few.
Starting off on an extreme note, with the mass execution of hundreds of players in a game of Red Light, Green Light, the tone was set. After this brutal opening, the Front Man—the director of the Squid Games—allows the players to vote to either continue or stop the games. Since the players were not initially aware of their likely demise, many players fiercely fought to stop the games. The fate of the players is decided by a single vote, and the Squid Games are concluded. Even still, this might not be the end of these horrific games: they may be continued if the majority of players reconvene and vote to reinstate the games.
This sense of democracy provides an eerie parallel to our society. Oftentimes—in elections, for example—we are given two undesirable options and forced to decide between them. This provides a false sense of freedom when, in reality, our choices are very limited. Many of these players are choosing between unstable living conditions and, in some cases, even death or the slim chance of winning millions of dollars should they somehow win the games. The pure desperation of those who wanted to continue the games was palpable, almost emanating from the screen. They truly believed their only option was to be a puppet in the Front Man’s plot, and they were willing to risk their lives in order to avoid going back to their normal life.
Not only were there survival-focused games, but there were also times in which players would sabotage, or even kill, others in order to increase their chances. Several times, the Front Man even encouraged the players to fight and kill each other so as to progress the plot. He insinuated that he would do nothing to stop the players from fighting and killing each other. This created a whole new dynamic in which the players are now fighting amongst themselves rather than the greater powers responsible for their inevitable death. This similarly parallels our society in which people fight amongst each other achieving nothing but chaos and misfortune rather than fighting those who could create substantial change but refuse not to. The sense of impossibility within the entire show can be seen in many aspects of society today.
While coated in layers of blood and psychological torture, the Squid Games reflected the hard truths of our society. Like a car crash, I couldn’t look away. Despite being intense and unnecessarily brutal, the show was inconceivably captivating and simply enthralling.