April 22-24, 28-30, 8:00 p.m.
Loeb Drama Center—Mainstage
Directed by Matthew C. Stone ’11
Produced by Bryce J. Gilfillian ’12 & Katie R. McNicol ’12
Sarah Kane’s “Cleansed” is a challenging production for all who partake in it. For the audience, the brutal violence and ubiquitous nudity can be disturbing. For the actors, representing characters beaten to the brink of death can be draining. For the director and the designers, realizing impossibly involved stage directions can be discouraging. Despite these obstacles, an undergraduate cast directed by Matthew C. Stone ’11 has begun work on a production of “Cleansed” that promises to be a jarring yet ultimately hopeful experience.
The play takes place in a ‘university,’ which is nothing but a prison camp enclosed by a chain-link fence and dominated by the sociopathic Tinker (Stewart N. Kramer ’12), a vicious ‘doctor’ who degrades his subjects to living bruises. Amongst the stark brutality, a tender and hopeful core of humanity pulsates softly. Coursing through scenes of horrific violence are several interlocking stories of the victimized characters’ desperate searches for love. “The play can be really brutal,” says Stone, “but at the end of the day it is really life-affirming more than anything else.”
Interpreting the setting broadly, Stone and set designer Snoweria Zhang ’12 have set this production in a grimy, claustrophobic, rat-infested sewer. In the interest of crafting an intensely visceral experience, the set will include a 10-inch pool of water, a bank of real mud, chain link fences surrounding both stage and audience, and a plexiglass wall protecting and hopelessly distancing the audience from the terrifying action onstage. In order to create an intimacy normally absent from the cavernous Loeb Mainstage, the seating will be cut by nearly two thirds and will encroach upon the stage. “The Mainstage is this huge, empty void,” says Zhang. “We wanted something small and intimate.”
The play guarantees to provoke and perturb everyone involved, but it rewards perseverance. Rebecca E. Feinberg ’13, who plays Grace—a woman who comes to Tinker’s institution in search of her brother— emphasizes that the goal of the production is not to shock. “We’re trying to stage this play in a way that is as tactful and thoughtful as possible. None of it is meant to be gratuitous,” she says. Stone’s production may put its actors and audiences through profound trauma, but he hopes they will emerge with a new understanding of the value of life and love.