Review: Players' Theatre Presents: Round Dance

 

The way we should talk about sex in a university setting is contested continually. Especially in recent years, where sexual assault is more openly discussed on college campuses, conversations about sex and consent have permeated the media. Arthur Schnitzler’s Round Dance is a seductive representation of the intricacies of sexual relations, and a provocative interpretation of a topic that was once seen as wildly taboo. Featuring director Hannah Kirby’s creative interpretation of unorthodox gender roles, the show explores concepts beyond those of the original play, which was written in Vienna in 1897. The show is, to quote Kirby in the Director’s Note, “an exploration of the complexities surrounding sexual relationships,” and certainly lives up to the company's one line description of it: “This is a play about sex.”

The show took place in the Players’ Theatre, on the third floor of the SSMU building. Set in nineteenth century Vienna, the play consisting of ten scenes, focused on the interactions between ten different characters (portrayed by five actors). Each scene depicted the moments directly before or after a sexual encounter, and each character appeared on stage in a rotation, where one character would leave the scene and the other would remain on stage for the next scene, intertwining the lives and sexual experiences of the characters in something of a “dance.” The characters, themselves, each come from different backgrounds. Their names in the playbill, interestingly, are not the names they are referred to on stage. For example, the name of a man who is called “Frank” in the play is named “A Soldier” in the playbill and “Carl”, “A Husband,” etc. This archetypal representation of the characters highlights their relevance in Schnitzler’s overarching social critique: that sex unites humans across all levels of society, and that the physical act can surpass the confines of social class.

Student theatre is made memorable when the actors are clearly passionate towards their roles. It was clear here that the actors felt comfortable with each other and truly enjoyed their work. The incredible stage presence of Eleonore Lamonthe in her scene as “An Actress,” and the brave commitment of Oscar Lecuyer as he stood half-naked in front of the audience are some of the most memorable moments of this show. Connor Spencer’s realistic mannerisms as “A Maid,” truly brought the character to life, especially in the scene with Clara Nizard, “A Young Master,” whose talented representation of two largely diverse roles proved her versatile acting skill. Anni Choudhury’s portrayal of “A Soldier” was an impassioned representation of the conflicting emotions surrounding a sexual encounter as something separate from a romantic experience. With scandal on stage and entertaining (often comical) sex-related music during blackouts, this engaging play cultivates discussion about sex culture, and the complexities of casual sex.

While the play was shocking when it was originally introduced, the discussion of sex has evolved greatly since 1897. Kirby’s experimentation with fluid gender roles was a positive modern exploration of sexuality, yet the play was clearly modeled towards heterosexual coupling. Certain lines that reflected heteronormative gender roles from the script could have been rewritten so that the relationships would feel more natural. Even more unsettling, though, was the dynamic of sexual consent. There were moments where the interactions appeared nonconsensual. A recurring situation involved one character who would explain that they needed to leave soon, but would be seduced into staying.

Despite a few uncomfortable moments, Round Dance was a thought-provoking piece with excellent cast and a fantastic crew. It was a pleasure to experience the sheer talent of these committed students.

 

Round Dance will run from February 19th through the 21st and from the 25th through the 27th at 8pm. Tickets are $6 for students and $10 for adults. Email [email protected] for more information and to reserve tickets.

 

Images Obtained From:

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