From the minute the audience entered the lobby of the Studio Theatre to watch “Dirty Laundry,” they knew they were not in for a normal performance.
Junior Katie Haynes approached every person who stepped into the lobby with a different strange invitation, for example, “The aliens in my head have said you can go in now, you have a minute and a half to look around the stage, any more and the lice will get you.”
The stage inside did not make an attempt to be any more conventional. Chairs, chaise lounges and couches were spread around various parts of the stage for the audience to sit on. A swing and a sturdy rope, which would bothbecome integral to the performance, hung from the ceiling. Most of the cast sat examining themselves in mirrors. An occasionally spitting, possibly naked, senior Noel Sherrard sat in a cage suspended above the heads of those entering the theatre. A sign on the cage labeled the senior as the “last human on Earth.” No, this was never mentioned in the play.
The play itself is a mad dash from one scene to another. One minute, junior Jack Dryden might be singing part of an embarrassing song he wrote for his girlfriend at the age of seventeen, and the next, senior Alix Dewald might be narrating a creation myth where evil was born out of women’s intimate relations with rocks. Junior Anna Munzesheimer may be giving an impassioned monologue from the point of view of a forgetful Peter Pan, or junior Ivy Reid might be leading the other three in a funny and warped version of Fergie’s “sexy” dancing.
“My brain exploded,” said sophomore Lena Brandis after leaving the event. “I don’t even know how to explain what I just saw.”
The production was billed as a work in progress, which was apparent while watching the play. This is not a complaint, part of the charm of the production was seeing the performers try everything and see what worked.
“It’s not clean,” said Associate Professor of Dance Jennifer Smith after watching the play, “But that’s what’s so exciting.”
It was difficult at times to know what parts of the play were intentionally uneven and which ones were actually rough. After the play, some members of the audience wished they had seen “Dirty Laundry” both nights just to see the differences between the performances.
The most thrilling part of the play was the last piece, “Pepper/American Music,” in which the performers let themselves go completely and were transformed into beings of ecstasy and energy.
As the song “Pepper” played, the four members of the group became even more energetic than they had been throughout the play. The group moved without any semblance of order, sometimes dancing, sometimes performing acrobatic feats on the swings, which flirted with disaster more than once.
As the song switched to “American Music,” the troupe pulled audience members into the performance area to join their bizarre world of release. Some of the participants only danced with the actors, but others interacted with the set itself, swinging on the swings or climbing the rope as if they were in a high school sitcom gym class.
The force and devotion behind the project was undeniable. The play may have been weird and puzzling, but that was part of the charm. The rest of the charm was the passion of the performers, who will hold onto the piece long after it is over.
“We’re people who want to keep doing this,” Dryden said, “”Dirty Laundry’ will live on in all our future projects.”