On a cold and desolate Sunday evening while most students are scrambling to finish their homework, Allie Freed ’16 is sprawled across a musty old couch under a bright fluorescent spotlight. Posed as a hopeful, yet depressed young woman, her character, Tilly, assumes a melancholy role, desperate to find happiness in the minute details in life. “Melancholy Play” is not only filled with witty comedy featuring existential almonds, but it is a play representing the necessity of emotion, specifically the necessity to be sad and feel melancholy.
Written by playwright Sarah Ruhl, the play tells the story of a depressed and iconoclastic woman named Tilly, and the different people she affects. Through the use of great metaphors and stories that touch people’s emotions, Tilly is able to make all the people in her life fall in love with her, but only in her melancholic state. She glides from person to person, vividly describing the solitude and hopelessness that comes with being melancholy. Directed by Sam Myers ’16, “Melancholy Play” attempts to create a raw and dynamic atmosphere where actors and audience members are able to connect through the emotional state of the dialogue.
“Why are you like an almond?” Throughout the play, Tilly uses the demeanor of an almond to understand the ones around her and to connect with her fellow characters. She describes the almond as being hard and unfulfilling and only edible with salt. But she goes into great detail about the inside of an almond; how she wants to crack it open and look at what makes up an almond. Tilly wants to understand other humans. She wants to crack people open and find the good in each and every individual. Her eventual happiness stems from a genuine concern of the well-being of the people she loves.
Freed commented on her role as Tilly. “I really loved exploring Tilly’s melancholy. Melancholy is a feeling of pensive sadness, typically with no cause, and this specificity inherent in the definition was so fun to play with and explore. I think the biggest challenge I faced was that Tilly, as a character, lives so honestly within her emotions, but does so with such nuance and subtlety. I really enjoyed working on her emotional arc, making sure that I was capturing her emotions truthfully but still giving them depth and complexity.”
“A huge part of the play is that the characters are so honest and they talk about their feelings with so much sincerity,” Myers said. “I really just wanted to connect with an audience and have them leave feeling like they had seen something honest. They hadn’t been lied to.”
A large element of the play, according to Myers, was the challenge of mixing all these different entities into one theatrical performance. Throughout the play there was a live musical accompaniment done by cellist Izzie Koyama ’16 and composed by Maddie Legro ’16. Myers went on to say that there was also extensive choreography done by Laura Pietropaoli ’17 that was learned in a very short amount of time.
Many audience members thought the play was something different than what they had previously seen.
“I thought that it was fantastically done. I’ve been going here for a while and I know all the actors and I think they did an excellent job with Sarah Ruhl’s play” Brennen Malone ’17 said. “Shows like this have a very scattered feel to it but it was very much contained to the point where I could watch it where it was understandable and comedic at the same time.”
Freed concluded, “this experience has been absolutely wonderful and one of the most rewarding and collaborative projects that I have worked on. Our entire cast and creative team worked so well together.”