The UC Davis theatre and dance department’s #5 The Angry Red Drum offers a unique look into writer/director Philip Kan Gotanda’s inventive mind. Set in bizarre circumstances and moving in an undefined direction, the play can best be described in one word: abstract.
Made up of only six cast members, the story revolves around two lost souls drawn together at the ending of earth times – Pick (junior dramatic art and psychology double major, Bryan Marcus Pham) and Goram (MFA candidate in acting, Amy Louise Cole). The two set out as a team, working together to reach an ultimate goal. This goal, however, is never really made clear to the audience. It could be that they are searching for a democracy within a corrupted world, friendship during a time of chaos or peace in the midst of destruction. But, these remain mere guesses, as each audience member is left with their own interpretation.
On their journey, Pick and Goram meet two characters from a dying democracy, Truman (freshman dramatic art major Michael Lutheran) and Backwards Soldier (junior dramatic art and psychology double major Jazz Trice). Both characters live in a heightened state of distress, which is highly suggestive of warlike hostility. “Curious are the appetites of men,” a line repeated throughout the play, hints at the awesome destructive capabilities of the human race, returning to an underlying war theme. Upon these characters‘ introduction, it becomes clear that Gotanda is commenting on the destructive effects of war, undoubtedly linked to his outspoken frustrations with the Bush administration.
The play’s use of sound and stage design help to bring to life the surreal concept of the end of time. As power and authority takes the form of a drum within the play, rhythmic beats can be heard throughout the performance. In addition, the use of streaming sand from the ceiling, television monitors and red lighting create an eerie and unsettling ambiance, transporting the audience to the disturbing and dreamlike world.
#5 The Angry Red Drum is not your typical, run of the mill play. As nothing is clearly spelled out for you, it doesn’t let the audience relax. Addressing all too relevant issues of war, destruction and corruption, the play raises questions about humanity and human capabilities, demanding that the audience think and reflect on these weighty concepts. It offers a one-of-a-kind theatrical experience that is sure to get you thinking.
JULIA McCANDLESS can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.