Actually

This article contains opinion.

“Actually” by Anna Ziegler was a play presented by IUP’s Lively Arts’ Theatre by the Grove on the Waller Hall Mainstage Theater in the IUP Performing Arts Center. 

Rick Kemp directed the show with a cast of two people: Adrian Williams, who played Tom, and Miranda Schuck, who portrayed Amber. 

The play was about the complications and potential confusion involved in the hotly debated issue of obtaining proper consent. 

The storyline revolved around two freshman Ivy League college students, Amber and Tom, who got themselves mixed up in a “court case” about a possible sexual assault that occurred after the characters met up at a party. 

The jury was made up of three “unbiased” adults from their college who, as one of the characters remarked during the play, “seemed to have already made their decisions about what happened before they heard the full story from the two students.” 

The male student, Tom, was African-American, which seemed to bring a whole new dimension to the storyline and brought inequality and discrimination into the mix. 

Even Amber, the female character in the production seemed to be somewhat uncomfortable with the topic of race and even made some distasteful comments about it during the length of the play. 

The play was written so that it switched back and forth through flashbacks of each of the character’s lives that eventually transformed into a crucial part of the final perspective of each character’s personality during the trial. 

Each individual detail from their pasts seemed arbitrary at first, but eventually it all came together and culminated into a specific important piece of the puzzle of what happened the night at the party when the event occurred. 

The setting was simple. The lights came up on a stage with a minimalistic set of a single long wooden table and two matching wooden chairs. 

During the different scene changes the characters themselves would position the furniture onstage to fit the specific mood of the setting they were supposed to be inhabiting. 

The creativity with such a limited set to work with was impressive and the different orientations of the furniture was perfectly placed to get the feel of each scene. 

The way the characters interacted with the set was clearly well thought out and it was enjoyable to watch the flow of the performance around and including the furniture.

The acting from both actors held the attention well despite the play’s length. They wandered around the stage facing the audience more often than one another. 

They spoke and made eye contact with the audience as if they were having a conversation with us. It almost makes the audience want to open their mouths and reply with a comforting sentiment or words of affirmation to make sure the character knows we’re actively listening.

Throughout the performance the watcher is likely to seesaw back and forth about which character they’d like to sympathize with and by the time you walk out of the theatre you almost feel like your mind has been played with, but in an interesting and thought-provoking sort of way. 

The play brings to mind how much seemingly insignificant parts of our past may affect the actions and decisions we make in the present. 

I thoroughly enjoyed the reminder that people are not “bad” or “good” based solely on the things they choose to say or do in the current moment. It reminds us how active a part our past experiences play in our actions and reactions during the rest of our lives. 

The human psyche is almost inexplicably complex, and this play is a welcome prompt for our recognition of the importance of this mentality as well as the inarguable need of empathy and forgiveness we should always carry for our fellow human beings.

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