Man versus man is a fight never destined to be won. Such is the case for “Never Swim Alone,” a student-directed play to be performed this weekend. It revolves around the soaring egos of two of men, Frank and Bill, who are engaged in a lifetime struggle for superiority of a most intense variety. They compete in everyday mini-battles, each one becoming progressively more aggressive in their efforts to prove themselves to be Number One. And what would a true battle be without a referee? The whole debacle is observed by a young woman in a bathing suit — the very woman who triggered this game. The show periodically flashes back to the fateful day at the beach when she obliged the two of them to race against each other in the water. Neither has been the same since and the competition lives on.
The show features quite an unusual theme and is complemented by extremes in character exploration.
Freshman Ivy Reid, who plays the referee, said, “The show is very different from any show I’ve ever been in or seen. It features character arches that are extremely atypical, putting the characters in situations that, as an actor, I’ve never experienced.”
Despite the cast of only three, rehearsals have nonetheless merited plenty of work for those involved and presented some directorial challenges. One of the most difficult aspects of the play are the numerous moments where Frank and Bill speak in unison. The effort put into it has definitely paid off, and with interesting consequences.
Director Samantha Newport said, “Slowly, they have become more and more in tune with each other to the point where they often assume identical physicality or respond in unison when not in character.”
However, the show is certainly not all work and no play.
Reid said, “The members of the cast and crew hit it off really well, and we spend a lot of time laughing. The stage manager actually started putting down funny quotes from the cast and crew in our rehearsal notes.”
The show certainly has more draws. It provides ample food for thought about not only male but also female dynamics where competition is involved. “Never Swim Alone” deals with alpha-male pressure as well as the way women are viewed in society, which can range from innocent to aloof, with a broad spectrum between. One of society’s views is manifested with the swim suited referee watching the men duke it out from her own ten-foot-high chair.
“This helps to reinforce the idea of the woman being placed on some unrealistic pedestal,” said Newport.
Plus, if the look into the human psyche is not enough, Newport said, “There’s violence and a scantily clad woman. That’s what we find entertaining nowadays, right?”
Be sure to witness the outcome of this testosterone-fueled mess this weekend, October 17 and 18 at 7:30 in the studio theater of the CFA.