Saint Louis University Theatre 1994-1995 SeasonOn The Verge | Marvin's Room | Misalliance | Great Expectations
On The Verge by Eric Overmeyer
Mark Landis directs this wildly imaginative comedy by one of the theatre's hippest new playwrights, Eric Overmeyer. Three women explorers set out on an expedition in the year 1888. They brave the darkest forests, climb mountains, cross fields of ice, and, eventually, ring the gas station bell at Woody's Esso in 1955 America. They also encounter a most bizarre assortment of creatures and artifacts along the way. Nothing is impossible in this outrageous adventure.
Terra Incognita! This play provides a lot of unexplored territory in which to ... play. Since the allusions - as well as the illusions - which appear so unexpectedly in this play refer to television, B movies, sci-fi, rock and roll and junk food, I think we should take it as a compliment that Eric Overmyer assumes that the same Americans who would "get" these pop-cultural references can also appreciate clever word play and references to modern history.
Those of us who are part of either of the two American "television" generations to reach adulthood - the so-called Baby Boomers and Generation X'ers - can rightfully claim that the popular culture that has been spread so rampantly over the airwaves has not, in fact, made us stupid. If we speak in slang it doesn't mean that we have limited vocabularies. If we like to watch T.V., it doesn't mean we've forgotten the pleasures of reading. Eric Overmyer, a baby boomer with both a gift for eloquence and a taste for "cheese," is part of a circle of new dramatists, whose plays are, so far, as unmapped and gloriously untamed as Terra Incognita! Big Fun!
Mark Landis, September 1994
Marvin's Room by Scott McPherson
I went to see Marvin's Room when I was in New York in 1992 because I had heard about all the awards it had won and because the "word on the street", (i.e., what people were talking about at the TKTS, TKTS, TKTS booth on Broadway) was that it was the show to see if you only had time to see one. I didn't know what the play was about, but I figured with that many people talking about a show, all agreeing how great it was, I wasn't taking too big a risk. Now I wish I could find those people who told me to go see it and thank each of them personally.
I arrived at the theatre in plenty of time to read through the program, (as all good theatre-goers do), and I learned only a little about the play but a great deal about the playwright, Scott McPherson.
Starting with the production of Marvin's Room in Hartford, (which followed its premiere production at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago) and then in New York, Mr. McPherson had been persuaded to include his own notes in the program. He knew he was very ill with AIDS and undoubtedly would die very soon. His lover had just died of AIDS. He had written the play mostly in 1988 before he knew he was infected with HIV. David Petrarca, director of the productions at the Goodman, in Hartford, and in New York, has said, "Oddly, Scotts's life mirrored the play he had written, not the other way around." The notes Mr. McPherson wrote for the program included the following:
Now I am 31 and my lover has AIDS. Our friends have AIDS. And we all take care of each other, the less sick caring for the more sick. At times, an unbelievably harsh fate is transcended by a simple act of love, by caring for another. By most, we are thought of as 'dying'. But as dying becomes a way of life, the meaning of the word blurs.
No one knows how Scott McPherson had a preternatural understanding about care-giving that allowed him to write this play before he had to be the caregiver himself. He did not know that even while he was dying, he would have to take care of others, until one of them died, just as the character Bessie does in this play. What labor did he perform before his ordeal gave him the humanity to write Bessie's lines, "I am so lucky to have been able to love someone so much. I am so lucky to have loved so much. I am so lucky."? These were the lines I remembered from the play, the lines around which the rest of the play revolves for me. I left the theatre in New York knowing that we would have to produce this play at Saint Louis University Theatre as soon as the rights became available. I wanted all of our audience to see this play. I wish everyone in the world could see this play.
Coordinator, Performing Arts Services
Misalliance by George Bernard Shaw
Mark Landis brings George Bernard Shaw's masterpiece of farce to the University Theatre stage. The alliance here is of the oldest sort: an engagement. In this case, the two families don't entirely object. But are these two young "lovers" really right for each other? It's a question that might have been avoided until an airplane makes a crash landing right in the middle of things. What happens next in Shaw's wry comedy reminds us, and its zany characters, that the only certainty about life is that it is always unpredictable.
From the Author's Preface:
The strongest, fiercest force in nature is human will. It is the highest organization we know of the will that has created the whole universe. Now all honest civilizations, religion, law, and convention is an attempt to keep this force within beneficent bounds. What corrupts civilization, religion, law, and convention (and they are at present pretty nearly as corrupt as they dare) is the constant attempts made by the wills of individuals and classes to thwart the wills and enslave the powers of other individuals and classes. The powers of the parent and the schoolmaster, and of their public analogues the lawgiver and the judge, become instruments of tyranny in the hands of those who are too narrow-minded to understand law and exercise judgment; and in their hands (with us they mostly fall into such hands) law becomes tyranny. And what is a tyrant? Quite simply a person who says to another person, young or old, "You shall do as I tell you; you shall make what I want; you shall profess my creed; you shall have no will of your own; and your powers shall be at the disposal of my will." It has come to this at last: that the phrase "she has a will of her own," or "he has a will of his own" has come to denote a person of exceptional obstinacy and self-assertion.
George Bernard Shaw
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
Chris Limber, Artistic Director of The Muny Student Theatre, directs this Charles Dickens tale for Saint Louis University Theatre audiences this season. This classic comes to life in a clever new stage adaptation by Barbara Field. It is the story of Pip, a young boy from the country, and his encounters with some of Dickens' most memorable characters - from the ex-convict Magwitch to the eccentric Miss Havisham. Pip arrives in London with surprising aspirations in this coming-of-age tale which has delighted readers for generations.
Dickens is a great storyteller. He wrote Great Expectations as a series of episodes for his own periodical magazine. He was motivated by sagging subscriptions and a dwindling bank account. Pip, the protagonist of GREAT EXPECTATIONS, is, perhaps, the most autobiographical character in Dickens' work. His inner struggle between a culturally imposed definition of success and inner peace is a balancing act that Dickens wrestled with all his life.
Change ... growth ... understanding ...
We all have great expectations.
It is very appropriate that we offer, with heartfelt excitement, this production
... for the Pip in all of us.