Revolution stormed the Don Evans Black Box Theatre Wednesday night with the arrival of All College Theatre (ACT)’s opening production of “Smash.” Seats filled quickly, and the room reverberated with laughter as patrons and students discovered that political upheaval can be funny.
The play is based on Jeffrey Hatcher’s comedic adaptation of George Bernard Shaw’s “An Unsocial Socialist.” Set in 1910 at the English charm school for girls, Alton College, possibility for social revolution is seen in the education of what is considered the “bolder sex.”
Sidney Trefusis, played by senior English and psychology major Michael Krahel, leaves his new wife, Henrietta, played by junior English major Heather Duncan, to overthrow the British Government. Seduced by the words of Marx and Engels, Sidney goes incognito as a groundskeeper by the name of Mengels Mysterioso to begin his social revolution at Alton College.
“I used to make love to women, now I indoctrinate them,” Kragel said as Sidney. However, indoctrination turns into intrigue and possibility into disaster when the school’s resident rebel, Agatha Wylie, played by junior Biopsychology major Caitlin Dougherty, turns into a love-struck tyrant overnight.
True to any revolution, the play introduces interpersonal chaos in the midst of the planned social revolution.
The pathetic Chichester Erkskine, played by sophomore English major Matt Daley, composes terrible, but hilarious sonnets for Gertrude Lindsay, played by junior sociology and communication studies major Maddie Patrick, who flees from his overwhelming affection. Gertrude and Jane Carpenter, played by freshman art education major Kelsey Long, are Agatha’s na’ve lackeys. Their mischief, however, is checked by the Napoleonic head mistress of Alton, Miss Wilson, sophomore philosophy major Sarah Stryker, who rules with an iron fist from her metal wheelchair.
Though at times the actors’ accelerated British accents were difficult to understand, the cast charmed with quirkiness.
Freshman cognitive science major John Cherney’s outrageous accent as Sir Charles Brandon, along with his various Badminton sexual innuendos, had the audience in hysterics. The brief but witty comments of Lumpkin, played by freshman psychology major John Eldis, served as the voice of the proletariat, who humorously is a lazy bystander to the revolution dedicated to him. Senior English major Rudy Basso, aided by his ridiculous mustache and insistence that “ignorance is bliss,” played the caricature of capitalism in his role as Henrietta’s father.
The humorous scenes aided in developing the serious undertones of the play, creating a commentary on the ridiculous nature of both socialism and capitalism.
The play recognizes the merits and faults in both systems, ultimately leaving the audience to decide whether Sidney’s ultimatum, “It’s socialism or smash!” holds true for any society, fictional or not.
Katie Brenzel can be reached at email@example.com.