Drama Department presents quirky comedy ‘The Day Room’
Not many plays focus solely on the art of acting. Do actors’ characters ever blur with reality? In novelist Don DeLillo’s quirky comedy “The Day Room,” this is only one of the many questions that arise when a group of actors take over an insane asylum. The Drama Department will present “The Day Room” Feb. 23 to March 4 at the Arthur Storch Theatre.
An excursion into the absurdity of reality and illusion, according to Daily Variety, the story surrounds a hospital staff that isn’t quite what it seems and an acting company that redefines the boundaries of performance.
In this Pirandellian work, the line between reality and illusion is crossed repeatedly. “This play is an extraordinary acting challenge,” notes director Rodney Hudson, who has stepped into the director’s chair after a successful run as Captain Hook in “Peter Pan.” “Who is acting? Who is insane? Or-are they both?”
DeLillo, in his author’s note, states “this is a play about performance and concealment. It explores secret levels of language, perception and identity.” Michael Kuchwara of The Associated Press called “The Day Room” a “tantalizing, topsy-turvy play, full of theatrical tricks that are as intriguing as they are outrageous-an original, demanding work that creates more questions than it answers, yet remains a fascinating creation nonetheless.”
DeLillo has been called one of the foremost postmodern novelists. Winner of the 1985 National Book Award for Fiction for “White Noise,” he has also written “Libra,” “Mao II” and “Underworld.” In January 1999, the American Repertory Theatre produced his second play, “Valparaiso.” It has been said that his wickedly black sense of humor, his courage in facing the darkness he perceived, and his sheer capacity to endure are not to be taken lightly.
Brian Caccopola will perform the role of hospital patient Wyatt and then, in one of those acting challenges described above, become a television in the second act, changing rapidly from show to show, station to station. The senior musical theatre major from Westchester, N.Y., just completed a successful run as Tootles in the recent production of “Peter Pan.” He has also appeared as Van Buren in “Damn Yankees” and performed in “Red Noses” and “Mystery of Edwin Drood.”
The dual roles of hospital patient Budge and acting company leader Arno Klein will be undertaken by senior acting major Stephen Libby of Newtonville, Mass. He has previously appeared in “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead,” the “Playwright’s Festival,” “Much Ado about Nothing” and “Charley’s Aunt.” He was also an understudy for “You Never Can Tell.” Libby is a member of the Broken Compass Players, an improv group.
The roles of the confused Grass and Freddie will be played by another senior, Russ Salmon. This musical theatre major from Ft. Collins, Colo., has also just completed work in “Peter Pan,” as Starkey. Salmon has previously appeared in “Blood Wedding,” “Damn Yankees,” “Carousel,” “The Vagina Monologues” and “Business Luncheon at the Russian Tea Room.”
Kate Parker, a senior drama major, is portraying the authoritative floor nurse, Nurse Walker, as well as Lynette, a young woman in search of the elusive Arno Klein acting company. The West Newbury, Mass., resident has appeared as Lena in “Swing to the Tree Man.” She has also been in “Cloud Nine” and “Coming Attractions.”
The other actors making up the hospital staff and acting company are Shaun Kevlin (Dr. Phelps and Gary), Erika Sheffer (Nurse Baker and Jolene), Charles Zullo (Dr. Bazelon and Manville), Chris Rummel (Male Orderly and Desk Clerk) and Becky Guiley (Female Orderly and Maid).
Each act of the play consists of furnishings and design that do not fully illustrate a clearly defined location. The premise for the set design, according to Nicholas Purdy, “was meant to leave the audience wondering exactly where they are.” Purdy, a senior design/technical major from Cumberland, Me., has been the assistant designer for “The Heiress” and “Red Noses.” He has full design credits for “Blue Window” and “Cloud Nine.”
Lisa Kehoe, a graduate student in costume design, designed the costumes for this production. She has also been the house manager for Syracuse Stage for the past eight seasons. The designs range from drab hospital garb to bright, textured ’80s attire. Kehoe has previously designed costumes for “The School for Husbands” and “The Loud Mouth Mouse,” which toured schools in New York City. Last spring, she designed for “Much Ado About Nothing” and “Pink Floyd’s The Wall.” She has also worked on “Keely and Du,” “The Mystery of Edwin Drood” and “Independence.”
Jon Bonner, the lighting designer, uses lighting to initially create a mood of security for the audience. As the action progresses he uses various angles of lights to create an atmosphere of unease.
Performances are at 8 p.m. Feb. 23, 24 and 28, and March 1 through 3; and at 2 p.m. Feb. 25 and March 4. Tickets are $14 for adults and $12 for seniors and students. For more information, call the Drama Department Box Office at 443-3275.