|‘The Séance’ suffers drought of humor and emotion
It seems fitting the first and last word of “The Séance” is “um,” because that is exactly the word that comes to mind when trying to think of anything to say about this play.
“The Séance,” premiered last Thursday at Sonoma State and was a show that was totally student-made.
It was performed by a small group of student actors, directed by senior Jon Robin and written by senior Dylan Waite.
On every poster plastered around the university advertising the play, there are the words, “Sex. Weed. Tacos. Fresno,” written in bold letters below the play’s title. However, the sex, weed and tacos were in short supply in the play and truly did not hold enough relevance to move or even affect the plot in the least.
If given the chance to rewrite these words, I would recommend, “Death, love and drought in Fresno…but it’s a comedy!” The play does use a soaking amount of dark humor to stalk after six young adults through a very sad journey in their lives, as they mourn the death of a dear friend and their own seemingly lost lives.
The play follows main character Alex (Alexx Oddenino) as she travels to Fresno, to attend the funeral of her recently killed college roommate and lover, who was humorously also named Alex.
In Fresno, the living Alex meets all of dead Alex’s high school friends, and together they hold an impromptu and apparently successful séance to speak with dead Alex.
A hovering, ever present element of the play was the drought plaguing the city of Fresno. It is revealed that the drought is somewhat responsible for dead Alex’s death, considering she was trampled to death by a mob apparently rioting over the drought. However, we are also told the drought isn’t really affecting everyone in town and people can still order water and shower relatively easily – only the price has gone up a bit.
Living Alex is the only normal or even somewhat likable character, and alone seems to carry the initial plot of the play: the death of dead Alex and her funeral.
Living Alex, however, is thrown amongst a collection of unpleasant characters that all claim to be close friends of the deceased, yet seem too concerned with their own self pity and their own lack of life to be concerned with her passing.
We are to assume that is the point; that we are meant to notice just how strange and unemotional the characters are. We are meant to see the parallel between the water shortage and the shortage of emotion in all things Fresno.
It’s the ‘why’ I am uncertain of.
By the end of the play, there is no resolution to this conflict. There is no apparent fix to this drought of water and emotion; the situation may eventually resolve itself, but inevitably will return.
Maybe that was the joke. Maybe it was a heavy taste of supposed dark humor and I just didn’t get the joke; the sadness of the situations was too powerful to simply be laughed about. It did not matter how many times characters shouted the f-word or made uncomfortable passes at another or got stoned and went on never ending tangents – no amount of humor covered the truly tragic message.
I was moved to near tears when Oddenino’s character finally suffered an almost refreshing breakdown, crying about her loss, her lover’s death and the fact that she felt trapped in the parched wasteland of Fresno.
Unfortunately, her cries seemed to fall on deaf ears, and the play ends nearly 10 minutes later, after another character’s attempt and failure of suicide.
Again, if this was meant to be funny, the joke was lost.
This was, however, almost painfully sad and to have that emotion pierce so strongly through the audience is in itself a strong talent. The cast and crew of “The Séance” should be proud of themselves for such a feat.
“The Séance” was a unique look into the lives of suffering youth, the dragging events of the everyday and performed by richly talented actors. If you enjoy vulgar words said at inappropriate times, awkward situations, uncomfortable encounters and unresolved conflicts, you might laugh. If you are capable of emotion and are familiar with the itching sensation of thirsting for ‘more,’ you might even cry.
“The Séance” will return to Sonoma State after the school’s weeklong Spring break. It will run March 27-30 at 7: 30 p. m.