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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Review: Saturday Night worth a Saturday night?

Published: October 31, 2008
Section: Arts, Etc.

One of the things I like about seeing shows in college is the opportunity to watch the same actors in a variety of performances and roles. This really allows them to display their talents and versatility as masters of their craft and in general, this is a very enjoyable aspect to college theater. The down side to this, however, is that once you see these people perform, you begin to understand and appreciate their ability; this becomes negative when the actors are presented with work that does not allow them to make full use of their own abilities. You feel let down and cheated because you understand the potential of what might have been. This was my experience with Saturday Night, a play put on by the Brandeis Theatre Company.

The play itself is a very early, very obscure work of the now famous Stephen Sondheim and has all the tell-tale signs of such. The songs are simple, the harmonies safe, and the story line is fairly predictable. The main character gets into trouble and then gets into more trouble trying to get out of trouble; he gets saved at the last minute and, in doing so, erases a major character flaw, and everyone is happy.

In short, there’s a reason no one has heard of this play. It’s not bad, but it’s not all that spectacular either.

That being said, I did manage to enjoy myself. I admit, this was partly because I was immensely amused by watching people I know bounce around the stage, waving their arms around, performing dance moves that I’m sure have names but for the life of me couldn’t tell you. On the other hand, I probably would have been less amused and more confused had the dancers NOT been acquaintances of mine. On a more serious note, although I was disappointed with the show I was heartened to see how the actors responded in their attempts to revive a flat-lined show. Every actor really put in their all to make this performance their own, and it showed. The energy that exuded from the stage was enough to make anyone smile.

The two leads, played by Robert St. Laurence ‘11 and Olivia Mell ‘09, had as much chemistry as their parts allowed. They played each dimension of their multi-faceted characters flawlessly. Two other performances of note were those of Ashley Sauerhof ‘09 and Gavi Young ‘09. The equation worked like this: they spoke, I laughed. They both truly embraced their roles and made the most of what they had to work with, with resounding success.

The one qualm I would say I had with the performances was the way that the actors used accents. While there were some who uttered every last syllable like a native Brooklynite, many others in the cast would slip in and out of the dialect, especially during musical numbers. This is not, by far, the worst thing that could happen, but if they went through the trouble of using the accents, slipping out of them momentarily shattered the illusion they worked so hard to create.

Overall, I would say the actors should be very proud of their accomplishments. Not every show can change the world and not every audience will leave enlightened. I had fun. Plain and simple. However, as this play shows us, our Saturday nights are precious and should be treated as such. Would I spend one of mine at this show? Probably not. Any other time? Yeah I got a few hours to spare…