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Tuesday, May 28, 2024
The independent student publication of The University at Buffalo, since 1950

Talk' Speaks to Audience

As lights come up upon the darkened stage, voices whisper out of the dim surroundings, their pleading words echoing through the audience. "Talk to me," they beg in ever more urgent tones, their voices layered over the sound of falling rain.

Thus begins the emotionally powerful journey portrayed by the cast of Talk to Me. With a sparsely set stage, the play plumbs the depths of a couple in a crumbling relationship plagued by addiction and silence.

An adaptation of Tennessee Williams' 1953 one-act play, Talk to Me Like the Rain and Let Me Listen, Talk to Me was created under the direction and mentoring of Associate Professor Maria Horne. Performed in the Katherine Cornell Theater this past weekend, this culmination of a semester-long project creates an interdisciplinary and experimental performance that speaks to social undercurrents still prominent today.

"I chose this play because it talks about a relevant issue today, the issue of addiction, and how it affects relationships and because it addresses love and communication…and the lack of ability people have to communicate even when they want to," Horne said.

Originally a struggle performed by only a man and a woman, Horne's reimagining takes each character and multiplies them by three. The Man is performed by Tyler Brown, Elijah Coleman, and Oleg Faynshteyn while the Woman draws from the talents of Lawanda Hopkins, Genevieve Lerner, and Molly Leshner.

"They are all very different actors: they look different, they sound different. We highlighted the differences while we found small ways to make them the same person," said Marley Mandelaro, poet in residence.

Presented by Poor Theater, Talk to Me gives students an opportunity to engage in all aspects of theater, from choreography and design to the creative research process and poetry.

Mandelaro and Jeremy Dadel add well over 1,000 words of original poetry to Williams' text. According to Mandelaro, the characters, as portrayed by Williams, were expressing very little. The added poetry seeks to draw the emotional reasoning out of the characters and pull down their defenses.

Talk to Me draws from several different art disciplines in order to portray the characters' inner and outer struggles from multiple points of view. Dance, video, spoken word poetry, music, and acting all combine into a great performance that manages to fully detail the emotional disorder of its characters.

"It is important to experiment in theater and incorporate as many different disciplines as we can," Horne said. "The objective is to explore the themes of the play through multiple points of view, not only through acting…but though multiple art forms as if in a concert of the arts where each art represents itself but works together."

As characters struggle with the push and pull of their relationship, dance, choreographed by Elijah Coleman, displays turmoil in ways that words alone cannot. The actor's movements create a sense of unity that flawlessly connects them even as their characters experience a disconnect.

A project of the International Artistic and Cultural Exchange Program Creative Research Lab, Talk to Me has a good reason for its sparse setting – the scenery needs to fit in one suitcase when the show hits the road. Scheduled to perform in Montreal this coming April, the 16th International Next Wave Festival hopefully won't be the last stop for this talented cast.

"There is the educational opportunity of performing for people who don't understand us and who don't necessarily like Americans," Mandelaro said. "Perhaps if we make a play about…universal topics, we can bridge that gap."

Created with an international audience in mind, there are scattered lines of foreign dialect through out the performance, but it remains to be seen if the play can transcend the language boundary and manage to convey its well developed, highly thought out, and extremely well performed message.

Email: arts@ubspectrum.com


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