Theater takes you out of the real world and into a new one. This power is as unique as the stories theater tells. Often you can relate your own experiences to those expressed in a play and sometimes you’re even transported to a different time, place and world for a few hours.
The theatre and dance department’s fall production is “Cosi” by Luis Nowra. The time is May 1971, the place is Melbourne, Australia and the world is a small, run-down theater at a mental institution. “Cosi” addresses the importance of art, while tackling issues of love, trust and turmoil caused by the Vietnam War.
Organizing a production is no easy task; organizing one in a mental institution is nearly impossible. In “Cosi,” the group of patients-turned-performers is led by a kindhearted university graduate named Lewis (mathematics and theatre arts sophomore Garrett Lamoureux).
The patients’ production of Mozart’s “Cosi fan tutte” is overacted and silly. However, “Cosi’s” actors did not overact like their characters; they delivered a memorable and honest performance.
Some of the most notable performances in “Cosi” came from theatre arts junior Katryna Fogel, playing Julie, and theatre arts senior Antonio Mata as Henry.
Julie is a drug addict, sent to the institution for rehabilitation. Fogel’s portrayal of Julie’s addictive nature was realistic and honest. Though her connection with Lewis is strong, there is a sense that Julie is fixated on something more important.
Henry begins the play as a shy man afraid of his own shadow. He desperately follows Doug (sociology junior Daniel Cook) around like a dog. Yet after joining Nick’s (psychology senior Christian Harris) fight for communism, Henry starts to break out of his shell. Mata’s acting brings a physicality that shows the power behind a man who has so much to say, but too little confidence to say anything.
The cast of “Cosi” tells the story of each character in the most genuine way possible. Nowra gives the audience glimpses into each patient’s life before the institution and the actors make that past seem very realistic.
“There are moments where it seemed as if it were a real thing,” audience member and Paso Robles high school student Ren Callahan said. “It was really funny, but meaningful.”
The meaning behind “Cosi” is more than what appears on the surface. The set shows the audience the state of theater today; ornate and beautiful but left behind and derelict. The ceiling has a hole in it and the walls have charred, black marks along them while two chandeliers hang from the ceiling and blue and gold accents decorate the walls.
In a symbolic way, today’s theaters share the same dilapidated beauty. They can be extravagant and enchanting, but often suffer from a lack of funding and support. “Cosi’s” talk of war and the state of a nation also mirror America’s current political climate. The Vietnam War created a strong divide in the ‘70s and, like today’s divide, there still remains a sense of humanity that can be recognized on both sides.
The department’s preparation for “Cosi” has been long and busy. Rehearsals, set construction and costume designing have all lead up to the show’s run of six performances over two weekends. For director and theatre arts professor Al Schnupp, it’s the community built through the show that makes it worth it.
“We have worked hard and now we celebrate,” Schnupp said.
“Cosi” will continue into its second weekend with performances on Nov. 15-17 at 8 p.m. in Alex and Faye Spanos Theatre.