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By Maria Wang

Staff Writer

Trivial Pursuits

Sponsored by Musical & Theatre Arts Section

Directed by Seth Bisen-Hersh ’01

Starring Patrick Kim ’04, Yan-Yan Lam ’04, Rebecca Consentino Hains, Amrita Ghosh ’02, Bo Zhao ’04, David Poland ’04, Dawn M. Wendell ’04

Kresge Rehearsal Room B; April 21, 2001

Anything but trivial, the latest from Seth Bisen-Hersh ’01 is a story about a dysfunctional assortment of friends on their last night together. All in all, it succeeded at tugging at the audience’s heart-strings. The protagonist, an average teenager named Peter (Corey Gerritsen ’02), organizes a final get-together with six of his closest friends before they leave for college. Exhibited are the token bimbo Nicole, lesbian Kim, egomaniac Nick, brainiac Virginia, geek David and victim Sylvia.

This diverse circle of friends can’t seem to separate friendship from romance. A love triangle exists between Nick (Patrick Kim ’04), Nicole (Yan-Yan Lam ’04), and Sylvia (Rebecca Consentino Hains). Sylvia cheated on Peter with his best friend Nick. Kim (Amrita Ghosh ’02) loves Virginia (Bo Zhao ’04) and David (David Poland ’04) loves Kim, but neither of the loved know about it. The only thing that seems to keep the friendships alive is “Trivial Pursuit,” a game that they all play at every get-together.

The absence of a stage meant that the performers were at eye-level with the audience. This created an intimate atmosphere between the viewers and the viewed and facilitated bonding with the characters.

The set was sparse, with only a worn couch laden with multi-colored pillows and a blue bean bag at its side. The cast made the most of it through creative choreography. They managed to maneuver their way smoothly around the small “stage.”

The far left housed a platform upon which a strong white spotlight shone. The lighting unfortunately also illuminated the audience, detracting from the theatrical experience by making the crowd feel like eavesdroppers.

The first act begins with Peter’s dialogue with Mother (Dawn M. Wendell ’04), in which we only hear Peter talking. It’s difficult to decipher some of the content of the conversation. Mother remains silent and out of sight when she’s supposedly conversing with Peter, but sporadically yells at him and his friends when they misbehave. Perhaps it would have been better for the director to choose to mute the mother entirely or include her in the dialogue.

During the “Prelude/Entrances” number, the piano expertly complemented the anxiety in Peter’s voice as he dreads the inevitable dilution of friendship. The lyrics, composed by Daniel Scribner, poetically capture many of the more emotional parts of the play. The orchestra was a little off during “Ever After (Reprise),” but did a good job overall.

Sylvia performed the most emotive piece of this act, “Stained Glass Psyche.” Her trembling, sorrow-filled voice and agonized facial expressions conveyed the psychological and physical torture inflicted by abusive parents so effectively that this writer was moved to tears. Kudos to Hains for an excellent portrayal of her character. She learned the role in three days after the original Sylvia fell ill. Despite carrying around a script, Hains professionally stepped into Sylvia’s shoes.

“Guy Stuff” in Act Two, performed by David, Nick, and Peter, was the funniest musical number. The males pranced around singing about their masculinity and strike stereotypical male poses.

As the director himself admits, the play was rather melodramatic at times. “Four-Play,” an interesting cacophony of overlapping conversations, is especially reminiscent of a soap opera. The climactic chaos of sounds mimics the turbulent exposure of secrets and lies between friends.

Trivial Pursuits succeeded at portraying the feelings of anxiety and haplessness that exist among friends with unresolved issues leaving for college. It also poignantly addresses the nostalgia that all college-bound students feel towards their friends. Repetitive playing of “Trivial Pursuit” signifies their desire to relive the past, yet there are also many things in the past that they want to forget. As in Waiting for Godot, Trivial Pursuits explores the flux of time and its ability to stand still for one night.