With its opening set as a college dorm’s common room, “Window Full of Moths” made me feel at home right from the first act. Deglamorizing “college life” and highlighting the irritants that most college students are too accustomed to to bother with, “Moths,” written by Nick Baskin ’14 and directed by Thomas Stilwell ’16, attempts to sensitize its audience members to their own lives.
The set invokes a sense of familiarity with its sofa, pillows and quintessential scattered pile of books, which belong to Susan (Lily Shoretz ’16), a college girl in her junior year. Clad in a pair of comfortable-looking pajamas, Susan immediately strikes a cord with the tired and overworked college student. An ambitious physics major, with lofty goals of changing the world, she tells her audience her story with a brutal honesty. She sings to them the tale of her mediocre high school and her desire to become a competent scientist. Susan’s story doesn’t seem unique, built around the expected hallmarks of unpopularity in high school and great expectations for college. Still, her delivery is, at once, both charming and unembellished. Shoretz’s performance is fluid enough to assume the character of any Junior with a tendency towards quarter-life crises, and Susan’s character could serve as prototype — reminding the audience members of either themselves or someone they know.
Susan is joined by her friends, Darryn (Charlie Bardey ’17) and Seth (David McPeek ’16), who support her in her late-night academic (mis)adventures. Darryn and Seth, a couple in love, themselves struggle through assignments and other scholarly commitments while balancing the desire to spend quality time together. The three characters navigate their lives in college together, collectively whining away their worries.
But despite their ostensibly mundane and often miserable college lives, these students regularly break out into extraordinary soul stirring songs, which describe their everyday struggles. Problem sets, readings, arguments with friends and romantic ‘chases’ suddenly take on the complexity of Herculean tasks, which burden the 20-something-year-old characters enough to make them oscillate between regular college students and seeming professional opera singers. In one song, Darryn complains about how tired he feels every day. It’s a common enough complaint, but with Bardey’s vocal talent, the song turns into a heartfelt plea for recognition.
The play mixes casual conversations, jaded late-night heart-to-hearts, prolonged all-nighters and everyday romantic encounters with the more complicated themes of identity, self-worth and sexuality. And its conclusion leaves the audience with the urge to rethink their lives; it encourages them to reevaluate the seriousness of their own troubles, and identify the somewhat darker undertones they often overlook. The play, however, also hints of a rather sarcastic mockery of college struggles; the characters may sometimes come off as making a mountain of a molehill. Baskin’s writing, then, wants us to balance both the superficial and the more important deeper connections. The performers carry out these best through song, each actor displaying a remarkable ability to find meaning in a tune.
The play’s most beautiful message is to remind the audience members of the importance of making the most of their lives by finding happiness in the small things. Making clear music’s ability to add magic to otherwise common lives, the play is a successful combination of a musical and a skit. It left me with a deep empathy, and with a desire to elevate my own ‘normal’ college life to a higher emotional plane, full of heavy words and nuanced expressions. Run-of-the-mill activities are portrayed with a heartwarming integrity, which the characters employ to silently reassure the audience: “We’ve been there.” Simple, relatable and melodious, “Window Full of Moths” is worth a watch, especially for the worn out!