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"Daisy" Deals with Fear in the Atomic Age

By Andrew R. Chow, Crimson Staff Writer

The atomic bomb has long been a source of American fascination and horror. But what happens when the bomb shelter is more terrifying than the bomb itself? “Daisy,” a new play written by Simon A. de Carvalho ’14 and directed by Max R. McGillivray ’16, explores this question in the claustrophobic confines of the Loeb Ex from April 30 to May 3.

“Daisy” tells the story of Lyndon (Bryan D. Kauder ’14), Barry (Eli K. Rivas ‘16), and the titular character, named Daisy (Maya M. Park ’16), who are hiding out in a bomb shelter as an apocalyptic war rages above them. Although the shelter is supposed to be the ultimate safe space, their tiny, enclosed world soon disintegrates into lies, paranoia, and violence. Before long, the relationships between the characters break down completely, and Daisy yearns to return to the sunlit world no matter what dangers lie outside. “It’s a study about the power that fear has over people,” de Carvalho says. “The fear of the bomb can make the bomb real.”

The play takes its inspiration from an infamous 1964 attack ad by President Lyndon B. Johnson against opposing candidate, senator Barry Goldwater. In the ad, Johnson uses images of a little girl counting the petals of a daisy and then a quick cut to a mushroom cloud to insinuate that Goldwater will wreak nuclear destruction on the world. The play borrows the names from this event––Lyndon, Barry, and Daisy––and tries to capture a similar sense of fear, chaos, and antagonism.

To convey these themes, McGillivray and set designer Daniel J. Prosky ’16 shrank the Loeb Ex even smaller than it usually is, turning it into a cross between a bunker and a greenhouse. The audience sits along both walls of the space while the action of the play occurs between them: the result is a nerve-wracking claustrophobia that is experienced by everyone in the room. “It’s an enclosed space where it’s hard to have a sense of what’s real and what’s not,” Park says. “These characters go through pretty wild, intense journeys, but there are parts of this play that we all go through: feeling trapped, confused, unable to know who to trust.”

And while the play addresses fear on a very personal level, it still keeps the larger picture in mind. “What does it mean to be in an age where pressing a button can do a lot of damage?” McGillivray says. “Hopefully, the audience leaves with this question in mind.”

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