Most of the time, theater farce is translated into slapstick comedy with an ounce of deeper meaning. “The Melancholy Play” is different. Sara Ruhl’s contemporary farce begins with meaning and branches out from there.
Directed by Gannon University alumna Alaina Manchester, the play rakes through the very definition of melancholy. “The Melancholy Play” will open at the Schuster Theatre at 8 p.m. Thursday and will also show at the same time Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday.
The play will then return next week at 8 p.m. Feb. 20-22.
“It’s a feeling of strong longing; there’s almost a nostalgia to it,” Manchester said. “Melancholy is really a lost feeling; we don’t even experience it anymore. The characters in this play all fall in love with Tilly because she understands how to experience it.”
Tilly is played by junior theatre and communication arts major Brianna Woods.
Tilly views the world through a different perspective than most people do. She isn’t necessarily normal, but there isn’t anything wrong with that.
Her character brings a fresh feel to the stage.
While the production is even named after this sad feeling – melancholy – it’s called a farce for a reason.
There’s humor in stock characters, clowns and even some of the music, Manchester said. Even though the traditional slapstick is still exhibited, there are stylistic differences in “The Melancholy Play” that nearly categorize it as theater of the bizarre.
Natalie Pertz, a senior theatre and communication arts major, plays Frances.
She said the hardest part about this show is working with Ruhl’s writing.
“[It’s] like a poem or a dance which can be beautiful but difficult,” Pertz said. “The play is not realism but the feelings like love, jealousy and loneliness that Frances has are definitely real.”
This is what makes “The Melancholy Play” so relevant. Manchester summed up the moral of the story.
“If a friend becomes inanimate because of heavy feelings or even sadness, then there’s responsibility within the group to bring them back to life,” Manchester said. “They need help.”
And this can be true for anyone, but it’s especially important during college and beyond that.
Studies bring stress and students know they’ll soon face the stress of the everyday world.
Ruhl’s play is very in touch with this reality, even if the acting is abstract.
“The Melancholy Play” is the first Schuster show of the spring semester and opens at 8 p.m. Thursday.