On Wednesday night at 8, I was fortunate enough to enjoy an eye-opening (hence the title) and truly touching THIRDeYE Festival at the Wyatt Theater.
While I completely respect the chosen theme of death for this year’s production, I will not lie when I say that it was unexpected. It took some adjustment before I could appreciate the different approaches to the topic.
The Blue Jay’s Song, the first play presented that night, was without question the hardest to digest. Daniel Jordan’s script, while deeply moving and partially disturbing, called to attention a subject that I for one do not like to be reminded of. An abusive father and a mother abandoning her son as a child, effectively ruining his life as a young adult, was quite difficult to watch. This is a testament to the quality of the actors and actresses, who were truly amazing. And, I really have to mention how brilliant a concept it was to have three different actors flawlessly play the same young man at the same time.
Even though I appreciate the depth and the courage to delve into such a sensitive subject, I have to express that I personally felt a twinge of discomfort, which was probably the intent of the writer and director. To that I say, well done. It worked.
The production’s mood seemed to progress from dark to light through the night. The second play, Fools Afloat, quenched a much-desired thirst for humor. The loss of a distanced father, while still a deeply moving and shocking idea, was treated with less severity and more humor, a much-appreciated relief for me. Cameos by Hitler and Hemingway were the source of this humor – bravo to actors Ryan Geraghty and Christopher Mantione for their wonderful interpretations of these historic figures.
The last production, Empty All the Boxes, was the best in my opinion. Jazz Trice, author and lead in the play, obviously put his heart and soul into the writing and the performance. I bet he has a sister in real life, because the brother-sister dynamic was uncannily familiar. Sophiana Carrell, who played the sister Nicki, was brilliant and had me laughing the whole time.
What was so fantastic about Empty All the Boxes was not how funny it was or how delicately it treated the subject of death, but rather how appropriately real it felt. While watching the play, the audience wasn’t just watching – they were the characters. We had all been there, had that relationship with mom, dad, sister and brother. It felt completely natural.
This is not to say humor is the only measure of how successful a play can be. Instead, the balance of humor and sensitivity creates the feeling of a true telling of life. Maybe because I’ve had the privilege of laughing and crying multiple times to assume that it is the natural way of the world, but I felt that Empty All the Boxes gave the most real interpretation of how humans deal with death and the reality of death.
I know that this is probably the trickiest subject to get right, especially since there really isn’t any “right” way to deal with death, or even recreate it on a stage. Since it is such a touchy subject, it helps to be able to relate to the characters the audience is watching. Fools Afloat and Empty All the Boxes worked better on me than The Blue Jay’s Song did.
However, I applaud everyone who worked on this festival, as each production was a true showcase and testament to the enormous amount of talent UC Davis’ drama department holds. I honestly feel honored to attend the same university as students who have the capacity to create productions with such a powerful effect on their fellow students.
BRITTANY PEARLMAN can be reached at email@example.com.