Bash skillfully probes horrible people doing horrible
Three weeks is not a lot of time. But three weeks is all it took for Powder and Wig's most recent play to go from auditions to opening night. Directed by Trip Venturella '12, Bash was one of the most intimate and unsettling productions I've seen staged at Colby. As is usually the case for shows in the Cellar Theater, the audience sat in extreme proximity to the actors. This, combined with the dark subject matter of the script, produced unsettling results, provoking visibly strong reactions among fellow audience members.
Bash was written by Neil LaBute and concerns his favorite theme: horrible people doing horrible things to each other. The play is divided into two monologues and a dialogue, in which each of the characters, all of whom are Mormon, tells a painful story from his or her life.
Though the actors remained seated for their entire performance, they held our attention by speaking directly to the audience, and sometimes making eye contact, forcing us to act as unwilling confessors to their crimes. LaBute's strength lies in the way he crafts his characters: the fact that they are simultaneously sympathetic and repulsive, makes it difficult to pass judgment on them. The actors did a fantastic job of exploiting this moral gray area in order to play with our emotions.
In the first monologue, Molly Bennett '11 played a modern-day Medea who waits more than a decade to punish the lover who spurned her. Fumbling nervously with a cigarette, she drew us in with a sense of pitiable innocence, her eyes full of regret. By the end, that innocence had melted away to reveal her true motivation: an all-consuming desire for revenge.
Preston Kavanagh '11 was equally captivating in the second monologue. His portrayal of a businessman who truly qualifies for the title of "Worst Dad Ever" caused the woman sitting next to me to cover her eyes. Kavanagh put the character's inner torment on display, oscillating believably between justifying his actions to himself and beseeching the audience for forgiveness.
The final piece consisted of two monologues woven together. Alex Bassett '10 and Katie Ouimet '11 told the story of a seemingly average college couple who road-trip to New York for a party hosted by the Mormon Church. While Ouimet's character was the only psychologically healthy one in the show, Bassett's was the easiest to hate. Just beneath the skin of this model Mormon hid a terrifyingly violent and unremorseful homophobe. The joyful viciousness with which Bassett described murdering a gay man was counterbalanced by the sincerity of his affection for Ouimet's character. This was made all the more unsettling by Ouimet's rapturous description of her perfect boyfriend.
Venturella did an excellent job of pulling this production together in such a short span of time. The fact that it prompted authentic feelings of rage, terror, and pity in the audience is a testament to his hard work and to that of his actors.