By Melissa De Leon/The Signal
Upon entering a small, dark theater at California State University, Stanislaus, everyone was given a program, a must-read if you want to be mentally and emotionally prepared for what you are about to see. The title of the production, “The Monologue Show,” doesn’t give a lot of clues about what to expect. Director Amy Seeley’s note explains that the show is centered around family dynamics developed by the cast through improvisation.
The stage jutted out in a three-dimensional T, allowing patrons to sit at the front, right and left sides. The set, a generic living room, goes black as the play begins.
Suddenly a spotlight illuminated the stage. Actors dressed in black entered and began to rant about the quirks of their relatives, shouting passionately and competing with one another as they raved on. After a resounding “They drive me crazy!” the actors exited and the theater fell once again into darkness.
One by one, each actor performed as their selected relative, and the emotional roller coaster left no turn behind. The gestures and mannerisms of the characters are what brought the show to life. Whether it was men playing women or women playing men, the messages were clear and relatable. A couple of the individual monologues balanced the comedic quirks a parent or sibling has, and the true worrying they experience on the behalf of their loved ones.
Though comedic relief was present – in fact those involved did a good job of mixing the heavy storylines with the lighter ones – there were some points that seemed to leave the audience emotionally confused. One monologue involved a topic that was incredibly serious, but something in the performance made an audience member laugh. Not a quiet chuckle in the back – a laugh that seemed to anticipate others would laugh as well.
A few individual performances contained asides, in which the entire monologue was performed as a relative, but at the end the actor stepped to the other side to perform as themselves and deliver a message to the family member they were portraying. While the moving message was present, it also broke the illusion of the performance, creating a momentary pause in which the audience member had to make the mental adjustment to understand that the person who was the mother is now the child.
Yet overall the show was a resounding success, and the important message of how deep the love of family is, even when they drive us crazy, pulsated.
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