Nothing sets the stage for conflict, awkward moments, and humor than the coming of age story of a teenage boy. To add fuel to the fire, he must deal with his suburban rich mother, his father away fighting in World War II, and his own struggle to become self aware.
This is A.R. Gurney’s warm-hearted and gently humorous play, “What I did Last Summer.” Set in 1945, the play follows the summer of Charlie, a rebellious 14-year-old boy. “The story also highlights the challenges of daily civilian life during the war,” says Stage manager Norah Scheinman '09. On the brink of adulthood, Charlie finds his upper-middle class upbringing questioned through his newfound appreciation for art.
Joshua R. Peacock '10, who plays Charlie, comments that often “people do what they think they are supposed to do,” and this play “allows a lot of what people repress to get out.”
“The play makes you think that you can ask: 'is this what I want to do?'”
Although it is set during the late stages of World War II, the theme of self-discovery has lasted over time. The play's review by The Stage in London comments that, “the play is warm, touching and humorous, with something to say about the conflict between materialism and idealism which is so basic to the American Dream.”
Professor of English and Director of Theater Robert Gross has assembled an excellent cast that includes Peter J. Marciano '08, Hallie F. Martenson '09, Grace K. Lyttle '10, Jenna A. Forehand '10, Christa Levesque '11 and Peacock. Lighting is directed by Jessica B. Cohen '10; costumes are by Marciano and the set was designed by Ralph Dressler, technical director of the Bartlett Theatre.
In his seventh show at HWS, Marciano is excited about the production. “Theater at HWS is spreading fast, it's been growing every year.” This play exemplifies the theatrical talent on campus, as the dedicated actors and stage crew have put in much time rehearsing. Auditions were held last semester and the cast returned to school a week early to hold full-day rehearsals. The students are encouraged to interpret and develop the personality and purpose of their characters. Forehand explains that they practice “Method Acting,” while rehearsing and define every detail of their character, even “what their character's favorite color is.”
Along with great attention to detail in the character development, the visual elements are also well designed. The time period plays a large role in this production; elaborate costumes visually set the play in the 1940s. For his third play as costume designer, Marciano comments “this one is really focused on the costume.” Because there is a minimal set, the 1940s costumes visually represent the period.
“What I did Last Summer” will begin at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 7, Friday, Feb. 8, and Saturday, Feb. 9 in the Bartlett Theater in Coxe Hall. Tickets are $5 general admission, and free to HWS students, faculty and staff. Tickets will be available from the box office in Coxe Hall beginning at 6:30 p.m. each night.