February 28, 2010

Review: Lady from the Sea

Terrifying. Fascinating. Thrilling.

These were the words on the tips of our tongues as we emerged from the Moore Theater Friday night, an audience wowed by the dramatic genius of Ibsen's Lady from the Sea. Two and a half hours earlier, we'd strolled into the theater chatting of classwork, finals, how to hide the flowers we'd brought for the cast members. We walked out just as talkative- but with many more superlatives dancing from our mouths.

Did you see- did you hear? Ellida's eyes- Bollette's tears- Lyngstrand's coughs and awkward flowers. Arnholm's "Hm," German tourists, Ballested's horn, Wangel's despair. Did you hear- did you see? The ensemble, the lighting, the music, the language- the heart-wrenching moments and the dark laughs we shared! What happened in that theater? What brought us so close to Ibsen, to the sea?

There are many feet at which to lay the credit for this brilliance; we'll start center stage. Willa Johann '10 starred as Ellida Wangel, the Lady from the Sea, bringing the audience to its figurative knees as she battled the bonds that held her to the sea- and fought also the ties that kept her away from its mysteries. George Neptune '10 as her husband Dr. Wangel was lost in frustration as he watched his wife descend into this strange confusion, an illness all of his medicinal arts could not begin to cure. The family was completed (or rather left artfully separate) with the entrance of Bolette (Talene Monahon '13) and Hilde (Jenny Lamb '13), Dr. Wangel's daughters from his first marriage, each a complex and beautifully acted character in her own right. Bolette's admonishments, desires, and ideas of responsibility and Hilde's morbidly melodramatic sense of humor showcased both actresses' clear natural talent.

Enter Jay Ben Markson '10 as Mr. Arnholm, Bolette's "old" tutor, bringing more than thoughts of tutoring to the stage (and quite a lot of hair gel, as it turns out). His complicated romantic endeavors and well-wrought facial expressions contributed nicely to the piecing of Ibsen's dramatic jigsaw. In brilliant juxtaposition we found David Mavricos '10 as the younger Mr. Lyngstrand, a sculptor with a weakness in his chest and a self-assurance in his art that kept the audience shaking its head at the black irony inherent in his character.

And then- there was the Stranger. Eric Wu '13 brought mystery and power to the stage as Ellida's first dark love. His threatening air and rather impressive jump over the garden fence brought a striking arcane note to the production. Also definitely worth a credit was Jonathan Gunson '10 as Ballested, an intriguingly humorous Jack of all trades who also managed to help with some foreshadowing of Ellida's strange condition.

The production contained a few wonderfully refreshing choices that enlivened Ibsen's script. The ensemble (Torrey Barrett '13, Tomo Berry '12, Jocelyn Duford '11, William Hernandez '13, Grace Kouba '13, Liz Neill '13, and Sophie Palitz '13) built the marine theme to its eventual climax with graceful choreography and surprisingly smooth changes of set, made more impressive if one realizes that the women at least did it all wearing corsets and heels. Also very impressive were the lighting and set, to the credit of Dan Kotlowitz and Georgi Alexi-Meskhishvili, respectively, and both masterfully fitted to the theme, evoking thoughts of the sea even before the first words were spoken.

These seven showings of Lady also contained a musical surprise- the talents of composer and sound designer Roy Prendergast, best known (to us students at least) for his film credits, including Shakespeare in Love and Caddyshack. Especially appreciable was the music's inclusion of both drama and humor- to tell the truth, it reminded one of the changeable nature of the sea (remarkably appropriate, I'd say).

Deep bows and curtsies are of course due to the director, Jamie Horton, and Laurie Churba Kohn, the costume designer. The creative genius of both is more than evident!

And with that, I'll end my song of praise. Bravo and brava to all; resoundingly, solidly, and absolutely, Lady was a great success.

February 5, 2010

For the Love of Dartmouth

What a week it has been.

The Thayer school forced its students to [briefly] evacuate the building due to an unfortunate accident. Hanover Police announce that they’re (re?)-launching a war on underage drinking at the College. The Winter Carnival committee told us they’ve learned from the catastrophic Moosilauke Lodge-turned-dirty-snow-pile travesty of last year’s wintertide festivities.

Oh, and then there’s the candlelight vigil on the Green, where concerned students enjoin the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future to visit President Kim and the Trustees ahead of their meeting to discuss fiduciary strategy.

What’s next? My money’s on The Dartmouth publishing that Barry Scherr is actually John Edwards’s lovechild.

It’s unfair, really. Why does all of the craziness have to unfold after I leave Hanover? All I get to watch is this freak snow storm plough DC in ways that could make Ron Jeremy blush.

In all seriousness – what is happening to Hanover? Did our swine flu fevers addle us so? Is this all a jealous response to the South getting more snow-related news coverage than New England? (Because to be honest, you can have the snow. I ran toward the Mason-Dixon to avoid another gross winter, thank you very much.)

In any normal week, Hanover Police would win the “WTF, mate?” award for most ridiculous, ludicrous or otherwise idiotic idea. Scrapping a plan to engage the Greek system on campus to find shared solutions to shared problems – namely destructive behavior resulting from boozy over-consumption – HPo decided to announce a new plan. Now they’re going to launch “sting operations” at Dartmouth fraternities.

Brilliant, Barney Fife! Send agents posing as underage students into frat parties to bust the evildoing brothers. Nevermind that a stringent Dartmouth ID check at the door will allow frats to hedge against risk. Oh, and this one little problem: Students are gonna drink anyway. Except now, they’ll binge before going to that brotastic party.

But cooperating to accomplish mutual goals is so ‘90s, anyway. This is the nation that invades sovereign states in the face of international disapproval. Less talk, more action. What could possibly go wrong?

(And to Hanover Police Chief Giaccone, who told the students who didn’t care for his for-the-greater-good despotism to “go to another Ivy League school,” here’s a clue (because you obviously haven’t one): Dartmouth is the main reason you get a big department, neat cars and cool toys. Chug on that, dude.)

Sadly, the most recent issue born as a yoke upon the shoulders of many students is even more shortsighted and lamentably irresponsible. The Students Stand with Staff crowd has juiced up the Hope Express of 2008 with enough amphetamine to make Lenny Bruce uncomfortable. Wishful thinking is fine, but it has to be tempered with truth telling from time to time.

Dartmouth must deal with its $100 million structural deficit. No way around it. Spending the endowment is not an option. And, despite my best efforts, I don’t think Obama’s gonna send any TARP funds our way.

Layoffs will happen. Nobody likes that idea, but it is an economic reality. During boom times, Dartmouth added more staff – support and administration – than it needed. I sympathize with students who want cuts to be made on the highest wages, and want the wealthiest parents to pick up more of the tab to avoid layoffs. (I worked for John Edwards in 2008, and then worked for the Democratic Coordinated Campaign effort in the fall of that year. I get the soak-the-rich argument, I do. But it just can’t work in this context.)

Cutting wages on our best talent risks losing top performers. Raising tuition for those who can afford it (which is fewer than half of our students, by the way) risks our applicant pool falling sharply. Both put us at a significant competitive disadvantage.

Raising hell to avoid any layoffs is a quixotic gesture and a terrific mistake.

Here is the program – get with it: If you want to help the staff, then do some quantitative legwork and figure out ways to minimize staffing cuts; propose realistic solutions to ensure that cuts are made across the board; and fight so that support staffers aren’t unnecessarily targeted. And, for the love of all things Big Green, don’t take compensation and benefits negotiations off the table.

It doesn’t seem like that long ago that I left the College on the Hill, but it also seems that much has changed. With all this craziness, it’s enough to make me wanna come back. Good thing for you I’m snowed in.

Finally, someone who knows what they're taking about.

Douglas Irwin, the Robert E. Maxwell ’23 Professor of Arts and Sciences in the Department of Economics, finally breaks the chorus of whining from mostly English professors protesting the college's planned (and unfortunately necessary) layoffs. Emotional responses are one thing, but, as Professor Irwin shows, logic and analysis are another.
To make up the $100 million structural budget deficit through a tuition hike, Dartmouth’s 5,000 students would have to cough up an extra $20,000 per year. Are Dartmouth students and their parents willing to pay more so that Dartmouth does not have to make significant adjustments to its expenses? Do students pay Dartmouth to provide employment to the people of the Upper Valley, or do they pay Dartmouth to hire the right number of people to provide them with a first-rate educational experience?

February 1, 2010

Review: WiRED

In twenty-four hours, a lot can happen. You could write that ten-page essay just in the nick of time for your English class, for example. Or you could eat four straight meals at Foco, including your midnight snack. Or you could... write, direct and act a play?

Sounds implausible, sure, but they've done it- the writers, directors, cast and crew of the WiRED twenty-four-hour play event have done it. The plays were written overnight from 8pm Friday to 8am Saturday; the actors entered into the equation from 8am to 8pm. And at 8pm was the performance. The one all-out performance, the culmination of all their hard work, and- you guessed it- the way I spent my Saturday evening.

There was not only one play, either, but three, and each with a certain restriction- one character of each had to speak all in titles. The first (assigned the use of song titles) was a lighter comedy with the serious theme of love found in spite of adversity, spun off from the "balloon incident" from not too long ago. Audience members laughed along as Falcon evacuated the dance floor and fell in love with "Jenny from the Block." The Block Tutoring, that is.

The second play (assigned the use of book titles) was much more solemn. Thomas, defended by his best friend Jonathan, immersed himself in the world of literature and fell in love with an equally literature-obsessed woman, Vanessa- who, we learned at the end of the play, was not a woman at all, but instead a figment of Thomas' vivid imagination. At this revelation the audience sighed and shook their heads in appreciation; I guess we hadn't been expecting tragedy.

And the third play? It was assigned the use of movie titles and was a wonderful mixture of love and sarcasm, complete with a touching ending and "Awwws" from those watching. The (not-so)classic story of a waitress rescued from her mundane and cynical life by a beekeeper wearing a bee costume was heartwarming, and the interjections from assorted drunk, air-headed and grumpy characters were hilarious.

Overall, I'd call this term's WiRED (yes, that's right! It happens every term) a great success- the actors were invested in their craft despite the occasional use of scripts, and the plays themselves were surprisingly deep and appropriately comic.

[[[And don't forget to catch the production of MACBETH, 8pm Thursday, Friday and Saturday in the Bentley!]]]