“What would any town, or any of us, be willing to do to solve all of our financial woes and worries?” This is one of the many moral dilemmas posed to the audience by Jane Page in her adaptation of Fredrick Durrenmatt’s play, “The Visit.”
Charged with happiness, anger, jealously, revenge and several other emotions of the human spectrum, this tragic comedy pries the audience’s comfort zone in its presentation of morally challenging situations that require keen attention and active participation on the audience’s behalf.
This highly arresting and thought-provoking play is definitely a must-see for all students, as it forces audiences to see outside of the social norms.
The play takes place in the small and impoverished town of Turdley, which has lost its zest over the years and remains alive only through its enthusiastic yet unemployed residents. Hopeful Turdley residents, who seek her helping hand to deliver them from economic ruin, welcome the highly anticipated arrival of the former resident and now billionaire, Claire Zachanassian, played by Breanne Murphy.
Although Claire appears to be nothing more than a self-righteous character in her pretentious, bright-red two-piece suit matching her equally burning red hair at first, she is in actuality a quite complex character whose many faces can only be grasped with the development of the plot.
Her former teen love and town’s shop owner, Alfred Ill, played by Jacob Dresch, reveals a rather intricate character as well. Dresch incredibly delivers this multifaceted character as a rather likable and amiable man, loved by all the residents of Turdley. Dresch’s grasp of Ill’s character comes across powerfully to the audience, with striking delivery of emotions that cause the audience to engage in celebration with his joy but tremble in his fear.
The town’s peace is disturbed by Claire’s offer, as residents become increasingly concerned with attaining their promised share of the lingering billion dollar donation.
The costuming is a key element in portraying the town’s transitioning morality. While initially the town pledges to remain loyal to their old fellow friend Ill, this unanimous mentality dissolves as quickly as it was established. From old dusty rags to fabulous yellow shoes and flashy clothing, the town’s change of heart is marked with elements that mark a rise in the standard of living.
While one would tag Claire as begrudging, one can understand her inability to leave the past where it is, as the audience becomes more knowledgeable of her pain as a mother who was forced to give up her daughter as a teen. With hatred in her eyes and pain in her voice, Claire announces to the townspeople, “The world made me a whore, and now — I make it a brothel.”
“It’s certainly entertaining, but also very thought-provoking and one that will spark debate,” Page said about the intricate plot.
Several twists and turns complicate the plot, requiring audience participation and demanding thorough attention.
“People said the second time around they saw things they missed the first time because there’s so much going on … but any play that has a certain breadth of size, if it’s well done, should have a lot of detail, like this one,” Page added.
Despite the large cast of 30 in a rather small space, Page completely engages the audience by utilizing the entire theater room. From opening wall panels to the areas surrounding the audiences, to the high ceiling, the staging and lighting, the room helps execute a powerful play that demands the audience to become completely submerged.
“The Visit” raises questions about the integrity of upholding morals in the face of poverty, an issue that is still very much relevant today as it has ever been; with the obvious rise in economic struggles in contemporary America, it seems that the play is even more relevant to students today.
Recommended: A relevant piece of theater that is important for audiences today.