Emotionally-honest Vogting

Vogt C takes the stage at Carruthers Hall this weekend.
Vogt C takes the stage at Carruthers Hall this weekend.
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Theatre Review: Vogt C, until Feb. 11 @ Vogt Studio, Carruthers Hall

There are times when theatre can move you to unexpected feelings of satisfaction. Other times, you’re left wishing for resolution. The third installment of the Vogt series of student productions takes these two emotions and provides an honestly intimate look at what it feels like to be a person on the verge.

The first play, Genesis, written and directed by Rob Kempson, is a brief look into the life of a family torn by religious conviction. Through the mouthpiece of the Creation story, the characters explore what belief in God means. The Child, played by Wendy Fox, sets off the narrative when she begins to question what she’s learning in Sunday school.

The Prayer (Megan Deeks) is also the mother figure who continuously asks God to show Himself to her children, despite disdain from her non-believing husband the Scholar (Andrew Pigott). She encourages him to seek guidance from the Minister (Danny Mahoney) who explains that sometimes academia shuts the door to the possibility of true faith.

Genesis opened up the never-ending debate over whether real truth lies in God or science. While the argument feels almost stale, Kempson asserts in his Director’s Notes that the focus of the piece is to explore rest rather than resolution —reminiscent of a fruitless end to a charged and dragged out conversation.

The greatest appeal of Genesis, however, lies not in the script or acting, but the visual elements that helped to convey a clearer message.

The stage was littered with piles of books that each character searched for answers in, or simply walked on top of, based on their inclination.

The greatest visual element of the production, though, was that the characters were attached to strings suspended from the ceiling and connected to them through small black boxes on their backs. This created the eerie feeling of a sort of pull-string doll being sent messages from on high—regardless of whether they believed in that higher power.

Set Designer Meredith Buck did an excellent job of letting set pieces speak for themselves and demand that their validity on stage be recognized. It was their relationship to the characters that, more than anything else, showed the extent to which sometimes there can be no real solution.

The second play, Cowboy Mouth, written by Sam Shepherd and directed by Jonathan Heppner, is based on the real-life relationship of Sam Shepherd and rocker Patti Smith.

Cowboy Mouth finds Slim (Chris New) kidnapped from his seemingly normal life by Cavale (Sasha Kovacs) who promises to turn him into a rock star. There is an undeniable chemistry between New and Kovacs that allows for the creation of a warped reality.

From the very beginning I felt myself being entranced by the characters. Anything they can conceive of, they can do, from stealing a pair of red tap shoes, to playing hunter and prey and howling at the moon. Cavale even carries around a dead crow named Raymond, who she claims is the only one who’s stuck by her in her life.

The entire play felt like a drug-induced haze, where all inhibitions and preconceived notions could be checked at the door. And just like a high, Cowboy Mouth was a skewed, if not enlightened look at the reality of living on the edge and at a darker side of salvation.

In one moment of inspiration, Cavale delivers a piercing monologue about the futility of old world religion in connecting to the hurt of a new generation. She tells Slim that rock and roll is the only religion she has, and that he must take all of the fragmented frustration of the world and become a modern-day saviour—a rock and roll Jesus with a cowboy mouth.

Yet, as captivating as the relationship between Slim and Cavale is, it is the unexpected and surreal appearance of the Lobster Man (Jeff Diadoti), which simultaneously relieves and creates the tension of the play.

Outfitted as —you guessed it— a human-sized lobster, he ushers in comic relief from the moment he opens his mouth and sounds like one of the adults on Charlie Brown.

Yet, while he begins as merely an object of ridicule by the characters, they eventually take an interest in his experience. He manages to transform himself into a Christ-like figure, and shows that for some, salvation can be found in the most unexpected of places.

If there is one thing that Vogt C reveals to its audience, it is that not all questions can be answered. Sometimes the relevance of life, and theatre, is simply being able to see the world from someone else’s perspective—however quirky it may be.

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