When was the last time you felt connected to the Earth? Right now there’s a large chance that you’re sitting in Cafe Mac, dutifully enjoying a meal from Bon Appetit. When was the last time that you considered where your hamburgers came from and what it took for them to get there? Do you ever think about the cow which gave the milk to be used in your bowl of soft serve, or the potatoes that were sliced and cooked to make your delectable French fries? The play green: an elegy to summer by Carson Kreitzer beckons the audience to consider their place within the natural world, to strip away the leviathan machinations of society which hide this world and that deliver to you, the consumer, the finished products of our capitalistic society for your sustenance and entertainment.
green is a brand new play commissioned through The Playwrights’ Center and was performed for the first time by the Macalester College Theatre and Dance Department. It ran from Friday, October 2nd through Saturday, October 10.
green is in part inspired by the lamenting tale of Joan of Arc, a young heroine who strives to achieve goodness but who society strikes down and casts as a villain, only to later champion her as a martyr. The young heroine of this story, played by Niara Williams ’18, is also named Joan, and she a girl who is in equal measures tremendously smart and brave. Joan creates a fantastical machine which is powered by urine, purifies water, and even has the unintentional byproduct of a shining light, which serves as a guiding beacon for stray souls. At its core this machine uses human waste to create pure and beautiful water, showing that humanity does not have to corrupt our world. On the contrary – we can better it.
Joan is forced to flee from her home because the government is trying to capture the machine’s creator, and she takes refuge with a group of Radical Faeries. The Faeries are members of a movement which seeks to rebel against a heteronormative, empty society by creating a close, inclusive, loving community and achieve environmental sustainability. Forced into seclusion in the woods, Joan rebuilds her machine with the Radical Faeries and they set out to spread it across the world, letting each and every person have access to clean water.
Performed in a variety of different locations around campus, including the Campus Center, the Chapel, and the courtyard between the Theater and Music buildings, the play employs a minimal set and few sound and lighting effects. However what green lacks in technical elements, it makes up for in astounding performances from the cast. Chief among them is Michael Karadsheh ’18, who plays David, a Radical Faery with an obsession for fermentation and a passion for crossdressing. Michael delivers a stellar performance, ranging between manic expressions so exceptionally full of life and the sorrowful cries of a man slowly losing his mind as the result of harmful drugs used to treat his AIDS. David was often shown proclaiming the worth of the unheralded or even the vilified every day. And frequently this was directed towards the value of the bacterial world, which is often decried as harmful or dangerous yet is entirely necessary for human life. Mirroring Joan´s own philosophy, this ode to fermentation preaches to the audience that that which we may find disgusting, distasteful or dastardly may actually be beautiful.
Another notable performance came from Zachary Anderson ’18, who played the commune´s farmer Jacob. Jacob was fully fleshed out with billowing exuberance and verbosity that somehow made the audience share his unyielding fanaticism for compost and all things dirt related. Zachary brings to life what otherwise might have been an overly dull or serious character, by injecting the role with constant charm and a friendly and comedic touch.
While green was supremely enjoyable, it lacked, in essence, the very message that it espoused, by not paying any lengthy attention to the relationships between its characters. It comes off more as a series of messages spoken from characters on their soapbox, with each person embodying a different gripe that the playwright seemed determined to rant about. Accordingly the conflicts and triumphs of the play do not come from the actions of the characters, but rather from existing forces lurking beyond the stage, such as the government or villainous corporations. It is these forces that the characters are acting with and against, and as such it leaves the play seeming hollow.