Christina Collins Burton
“The Screens” offers an audience member a look into the taboo, yet interesting topic of sin.
“It was really interesting,” Mary Miller, freshman psychology major, said. “I wasn’t quite sure what was going on most of the time, but it certainly fit its description.”
“The Screens” was written by Jean Genet and is set during the Algerian war of independence from the French. The audience is able to see the play from the point of view of the Algerian people.
Originally being about six hours long, the Dailey Theatre’s production is cut to three hours, including a 15 minute intermission. Even with the cuts for time purposes the play leaves very little out from the original story.
Though confusing and at times hard to follow, the performances stayed true to the original idea of abstraction as a way of getting the story across.
Actors wore simple masks to portray their characters, consisting of thick, exaggerated face paint and at times rubber noses. These “masks” allowed the audience to see the actor’s faces and easily read what was going on in the scene.
The characters that the play focuses on are the flamboyant and silly French soldiers that create many joking opportunities and the rough, grounded Algerian people who show depth through their sarcasm about the quality of life.
Keeping up with the story does require a little imagination. While there are some sound recordings to help with background noise in the play, the actor’s provide some of the sound effects as well. Sounds like the wind and the buzzing of flies were provided by the actors and often times caused confused laughter from the audience.
Though a lot of laughs can be found throughout the performances, the transition from silly to serious plot is smooth and often times can catch one off-guard.
“I think in the layer confusion there is an element of purpose in the play,” Shannon Garcia, junior sociology and speech communication major, said. “It is talking about any time really: life, death, war, and paradox; it is about everything and nothing.”
The audience laughed, gasped and listened as the story unfolded a twisted tale of fate mixed with violence.
The sets, while simple and not heavily depended on, added color to scenes rich in plot, and seriousness to the more violent of situations. One such instance occurs later in the play where talk of revolting uses a projection of graffiti to emphasize the stories of some of the rebels as they stumble onto the stage.
As the story progresses, screens are rolled on and off stage and props are moved or adjusted to create a different time of day or feeling for the audience.
For this being one of the largest casts the theater department has ever seen, the cast worked so well with one another that it was hard to tell who was on stage for the first time. In order to make rehearsals run smoothly and without problems the scenes were split into several different rehearsal sections.
“It was really hard working with so many people because I wanted to know what was going on in the rest of the play,” Gemma Alfaro, who plays an Algerian prostitute, said. “I really got to see the scenes come together this last week.”
The play itself is definitely not for younger audiences, and its use of language adds to the color of the performances instead of taking away.
“The Screens” is a must see, and will keep you talking long after its last performance about all of the colorful characters and symbolism used in every scene.
The performance will run in Dailey Theatre tonight and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and will have a matinee show at 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $5 at the door for students, $8 for faculty and $10 for general admission.
Christina Collins Burton can be reached at email@example.com.