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Impressive re: [no subject] surprises

Published: Thursday, April 25, 2013

Updated: Thursday, April 25, 2013 01:04


Though the emails advertising re: [no subject] were amusing, I will admit I had no idea what to expect when I entered the Black Box Theater last Friday night to see this work in progress. I knew the playwright was a Kenyon alum, and the play somehow connected to the College, but besides that I was at a loss. However, the production of re: [no subject] by Visiting Assistant Professor of Drama Brant Russell ’02 turned out to be powerful and realistic.

Written by Japhet Balaban ’09 and directed by Russell, the play followed the love story between Dan (Josh Henderson-Cox ’13) and Chelsea (Shelby Green ’14) from the moment they met at a party to the heartbreaking night that they said their final goodbyes. 

Though the plot seemed like it could have turned into just another romance, the play took on so much more significance because of the audience. Because it took place at Kenyon, audience members could relate to the characters on stage. I felt for Dan when he expressed his conflicted emotions toward Chelsea’s leaving to study abroad. Not only did Henderson-Cox successfully portray the moment, but the moment also struck a note because, as a Kenyon student, I have personally witnessed couples break up for that very reason. 

In addition to creating a believable situation, Balban brilliantly captured the essence of Kenyon’s somewhat nerdy students, and even included some amusing allusions to Kenyon events, such as Shock Your Mom. Unfortunately, this specificity limited the play’s potential audience.

Russell chose to include costume changes on stage, which shocked in the beginning, but throughout the play became extremely effective. Green and Henderson-Cox helped each other in these moments, thus increasing the feeling of support between the two. They never broke character, and this made their romance believable. The choice also emphasized the illusion of time passing. The couple was almost always on stage, and the audience could see them changing both physically and emotionally.

Russell’s use of the Black Box Theater was extremely clever. The small feel of the space helped increase the play’s intimacy and made me feel like I was intruding on this couple’s moments, which I appreciated. Russell also made use of the backstage in interesting ways. One of the strongest moments of the play took place in one of the back rooms when Dan and Chelsea were sleeping together. A window allowed the audience to see into the space, but when the lights went out, all we could experience were the noises they were making. The moment was uncomfortable in a fascinating way. Even though the audience was blind to the events occurring in the room, the sounds — first of the intimacy, and then of Chelsea’s pain — were very real, and rang throughout the theater. I remember looking around the room and watching audience members, including myself, fidget and grow antsy. The moment was extremely powerful, and left the audience silent. 

The play only included two actors, which gave Green and Henderson-Cox a difficult task. The entire play was based on their relationship, and they had to carry it from point to point all on their own. That being said, I though they tackled the job brilliantly. They created a relationship that I believed from the moment it started. Beginning with the hook-up at an Old Kenyon party, I witnessed it blossom into something that, at least in the character’s minds, felt extremely strong and real. I was rooting for them in the beginning, and much of that was because Henderson-Cox and Green played off each other so well.

The actors continued to impress me as the story unfolded and their differences began clashing. They both created moments in which I was able to both feel for them and blame them for the events I witnessed. For example, after Chelsea returned from abroad, I believed Henderson-Cox’s heartbreak when Green informed him that she had moved on. However, Green turned it right around in the second-to-last scene, when Henderson-Cox was screaming at her simply because she said hi to him. She transformed into a believable victim, and successfully conveyed the pain of that moment.

[re: no subject] turned into a jarring and unexpected experience. Personal writing and fantastic acting made it a must-see event. I understand that the play is a work in progress, but I look forward to seeing Balaban’s future masterpiece.  

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