Student production to explore sex, drugs and existentialism

An eclectic student production that explores the nature of relationships, freedom and art will premier in Trumbull’s Nick Chapel on Thursday.

“Sex, Drugs, and Existentialism,” a new play by Julian Wise ’16, will consist of three acts and feature only four characters. The production will examine themes including escapism, commitment and existentialism through interactions that border on the “absurd [and] hyperrealist,” said Charlotte Newell ’16, the show’s set designer, adding that the piece will attempt to express non-rational concepts. Wise noted that he believes it is impossible to articulate the central ideas behind the production, comparing the task of summarizing the play to creating “a one-sentence summary of everything [one studies] at Yale.”

“The concept of the play is really intriguing — it almost made me feel uncomfortable at times, because of how real it is,” Newell said.

Wise explained that the play examines concepts through a lens influenced by philosophy and psychedelia. Wise said the main motivation behind his writings is the idea that “things happen” — that many of life’s events are necessarily left up to chance despite our best efforts to map every detail. Many Yale students strive to plan every aspect of their existence, Wise said, and this is what he thinks will make the play relatable to a Yale audience.

Wise highlighted the difficulty of encapsulating his work, explaining that he conceived it as a spontaneous and frank examination of ideas he considers relevant to Yale students. The idea of searching for meaning in life and escaping form the present through drugs, he noted, are especially pertinent to student life and are examined in detail throughout the play. When students go out on Friday night, they elect to give up control of their lives in one way or another, leaving things up to chance, he said. The play seeks to discover where how such decisions contribute to our quest for purpose.

Wise emphasized that the production strives to portray human nature in a genuine way: It does not contain any “good” characters because all humans are fallible. He added that the play is loosely based on the fable of “The Scorpion and the Frog,” a story that speaks to the fact that humans sometimes make flawed decisions that fail to take into account potential consequences.

Saifullah Khan ’16, who is helping with the publicity efforts for the play, said that in the modern world, we always want to remain within the realm of the known and wish to be able to act rationally, trudging a narrow, immutable path to success. This play takes us into the unknown by offering another way of thinking: That we are free to think and experience, he said.

“We rarely accept what happens or go with the flow,” Khan said, explaining that the play is critical of the rigidity of modern life.

“Sex, Drugs, and Existentialism” will run through April 12.

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