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Preview: CryHurtFood

By Virginia R. Marshall, Contributing Writer

Nov. 11-13, 17-19, 7:30 p.m.

Loeb Experimental Theater

Directed by Daniel J. Giles ’13

Produced by Bryce J. Gilfillian ’12 and Marit A. Medefind ’12

With buckled knees, modern dance, and ape-like gaits, Daniel J. Giles ’13, director and writer of “CryHurtFood,” blurs the line between human and chimpanzee.

A play based on a story Giles once heard on nationally syndicated radio program Radiolab, “CryHurtFood” tells the impassioned story of Janis (Margaret C. Kerr ’13), a scientist who first tries to make her ape friends act human before reversing course. At one point, Janis lets her control slip and yells at one of her apes, “This is not an experiment, this is a mission!” thereby hinting at the chaos that will ensue as she tries to convince chimpanzees that they are not humans, as she had previously led them to believe.

“The idea of a person playing an animal that thinks it’s a person is so theatrical,” Giles says, while on stage his actors engage in a violent yet elegant series of steps, with the human protagonist attempting to prop up her chimpanzee counterpart. The characters mimic each other and leap with alternating agility and imbalance, a routine that confuses which actor is playing a human, and which actor is playing a chimpanzee.

In a cast of six characters, it shouldn’t be too hard to keep the two species separate, but choreographer Mariel N. Pettee ’14 intentionally blends human and ape gestures. During the frequent dance interludes, human and chimp seem to digress from the evolutionary timeline and morph into one species. “A lot of it was watching videos of monkeys, watching ‘Tarzan,’ and seeing exactly how monkeys and their physical bodies differ from humans,” says Pettee.

The play also presents a challenge for the actors, who have to portray chimpanzees, humans who wish they were chimpanzees, and chimpanzees who thought they were humans but are now told that they are chimpanzees. “It was very interesting learning to be a monkey … it’s definitely a work-out,” says Kathleen S. O’Beirne ’15, who plays one of the chimpanzees. The actors have to crawl like monkeys and fall over one other.

Convincingly portraying a chimpanzee on stage—a talking, dancing, and singing chimpanzee, no less—constitutes a bit of a risk, as so much of the show’s success will be determined by the poise of the actors in cleanly timed dances and subtle gestures. But if the rehearsal is any indication, “CryHurtFood” should open next Friday night with a set of actors well prepared to tell a complicated but touching story of identity.

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