The Department of Theatre, Dance, and Film presented the play “Landscape of the Body,” Thursday, Friday, and Saturday in the Roschel Performing Arts Center.
The play is a frame story, which means it tells a story in the context of another story. It begins on the deck of a ship with a lady systematically writing out pieces of paper and putting them in bottles to cast them overboard. While she is doing this, a man approaches her and tries to start a conversation. However, we later find out the man is, in fact, a detective from a homicide unit.
The audience is then returned to an event five months earlier. We find the detective, Captain Marvin Holahan, interrogating the woman, Betty. She is suspected of killing and decapitating her fourteen-year-old son, Bert.
This conversation with the detective is an intense moment as both Betty, played by Jenny Robbins ’13, and Holahan, played by Pat Hitschler ’13, are very emotionally charged, conveying effectively the feelings of a frustrated detective and a grieving, angry mother.
There is a confusing moment, however, when another character appears in the background and gives Betty advice. What is strange is that Holahan can not hear this person nor is there any indication of who this woman is. In the following scene, the woman returns and reveals herself to be the spirit of Rosaline, played by Laura Martin ’14, Betty’s now-dead sister. Next, Rosaline appears on stage and delivers a soliloquy on death, explaining to the audience the nature of the play and the flashbacks that continue to occur throughout. After the soliloquy, we flash back once again to a year-and-a-half before the murder of Betty’s son. Betty and Bert arrive in New York City to try and convince Rosaline to return to their hometown in Maine. However, a tragic twist of fate leaves Rosaline dead, and Betty and Bert stay to handle her estate.
Betty takes over Rosaline’s job at a sketchy insurance agency owned by Raulito, a very interesting Cuban man who enjoys wearing women’s dresses, played by Joshua Sanchez ’12. Bert falls in with an interesting group of friends, most notably Donnie, played by Ian Steffy ’12, who encourages Bert to steal from people by luring them into the apartment while Betty is at work.
These series of relationships are wrought with death and hardship, as most things involving Betty seem to. For example, the boys play a prank that gets Raulito killed and Bert’s friend, Joanne, played by Katie Le Dain ’12, is constantly telling crazy tales of how people die.
The plot begins its climax when Betty leaves with the crazy Durwood Peach, played by Gardner Reed ’12, who barely knew Betty but claims to be madly in love with her. He convinces her to come check out his home in South Carolina, but insists that Bert remain in New York. Betty, hoping to improve her small family’s position, agrees and leaves Bert to care for himself with the $1,000 Peach gave to her as a symbol of his devotion.
However, Bert is convinced she will never return and has a mental breakdown, which in turn leads to the circumstances which will cause his murder. And, during his breakdown he is murdered by __________ (Don’t worry, I won’t ruin the surprise), illustrating themes of greed and corruption that carry through the entire play.
Overall, the performance was wonderful and I was kept entranced in a complex plot line that discussed vast themes such as corruption, greed, ignorance, new beginnings, and even sexuality. There were moments when confusion reigned supreme, but this was no fault of the actors, more of the complex plot line where the audience was brought backwards and forwards in time and where characters appeared and spoke even after we had watched them die. However, these where mildly alleviated by the voice of Rosaline who would appear from time to time to tell us what exactly was happening, not only in the play but in the mind of Betty.
The acting was great, and I was fully convinced of the emotions and thoughts the actors were conveying. Betty appeared as a woman looking for a chance at redemption, Bert was a naïve boy who was faced with the realities of the world all too soon, and Donnie was a misguided youth who was always looking for the next easy dollar, as they all were intended to be.
This play on greed, corruption, and new beginnings impressed me with its level of complexity, and its execution was phenomenal, reminding me that one does not have to go to Broadway to see a truly excellent performance.