Preview: Cheating Death
Oct. 4-6, 7:30 p.m.,
Oct. 6 2:30pm, 7:30 p.m.
Adams Pool Theatre
Directed by Will H. Ryan ’14. and Sam S. Richardson ’15
Produced by Katherine L. Price ’14, Brenna K. McDuffie ’14 and My N. C. To ’15
A hard-hitting show made up of two one-act plays, “Cheating Death” presents two very different performances that share a common idea: the loss of control. “Stingers” and “The Immoralist”—the two shows that make up the production—touch on some familiar themes, such as the generational divide, familial upheaval, and the ultimate struggle to find personal balance in the world. Both plays are also student-written, The first by Andy J. Boyd ’14 and the second by Will H. Ryan ’14.
Boyd’s “Stingers” revolves around complex interfamilial battles that lead to two children putting their father on trial in their living room to condemn his merciless parenting. “Those tones started to interest me more—the sort of delusion of someone who won’t let go of power,” says Boyd. The strong-headed daughter Nina (Camille Z. Coppola ’14) wrestles with her bitterness toward her demanding father. Coppola draws a parallel between the struggles her character faces and the sense of resentment students sometimes feel toward their overbearing parents. “I feel at least at Harvard that one of the major themes that students can connect to is the academic infiltration of their lives at the expense of emotion. That’s something my character certainly deals with,” she says.
By contrast, Ryan’s “The Immoralist” centers on a young, well-off couple who discover that the husband has cancer. Ryan based his play off of a novel published in 1902 of the same name by André Gide but added new conflicts and characters to ensure that modern audiences will connect to the play’s overarching themes. Ari D. Brenner ’14 plays Gill, whom he describes as a typical confident Harvard guy enjoying a successful career. “He’s got his boxes checked across the board…. This hugely life-changing event, getting sick as he does, really throws off whatever grasp he did have of who he is and where he’s trying to get in life,” says Brenner. This inner conflict drives what Ryan describes as the main theme of the play, the difficulty of letting go of a false sense of control. “The book’s answer is that...you should have responsibilities and you should constrain your desires, and that’s more or less where the play ends up as well,” says Ryan.
Despite the heavy themes, both plays try to find the humor in terrible life circumstances. “Cheating Death” allows two young writers to experiment with the inherent comedy and tragedy found in family life.