This weekend, the Nick Chapel Theater in Trumbull College will host “Talk Your Age,” an original short play written by Clara Olshansky ’18.
The play, directed by Micah Osler ’18, takes place in a beach house in Rhode Island, as characters wait anxiously for a pizza delivery. Throughout the course of the show, the four main characters — two of whom are brother and sister — call their relationships with each other into question. Drinks are poured, jokes are cracked and an LCD sound system is played.
“A lot of the play is about taking the feelings of the frustration of growing up when how you see yourself is so different than how people outside your particular moment in life see you,” Olshansky said. “It also deals with issues of intimacy, letting go and the ways that the smallest cultural differences can worm their way into our relationships.”
The play features four human characters: a young girl named Hannah Strauss, her older brother Ben, Ben’s girlfriend Isabel and Isabel’s friend Alli. The fifth character is a puppet controlled by Hannah. Olshansky characterized the play as a “dramedy” and added that in the play “everyone is anxious all the time, forever.”
Olshansky wrote and co-directed the play in addition to completing the production’s graphic design. Osler handled stage management in addition to directing, while Lina Kapp ’20 and Zak Rosen ’20 both served as producers. The play has only four cast members, including Sara McCartney ’19 as Hannah, Noah Strausser ’18 as Ben, Esther Ritchin ’20 — a YTV staffer for the News — as Isabel and Solia Hoegl ’20 as Alli.
“I honestly can’t think of a moment I haven’t enjoyed, or a moment that wasn’t funny,” Ritchin said. “But I’d say the rich and often ridiculous backstory we [as actors] created for our characters and our plot often lead to hilarity, as well as letting us get to know each other and our characters much better.”
Olshansky said she finished writing the play last semester while studying abroad in Dublin. She said she was inspired by the short stories her suitemate wrote, and her competitive nature drew her to writing the play to keep up with him. Olshansky added that her involvement with the University College Dublin’s Drama Society pushed her to finish before the end of classes so she could receive feedback from her friends there.
The play was a personal project for Olshansky, who said that Hannah shares much in common with her own behavior when she herself was 13 years old. Additionally, Osler said he related to all the characters in the play, characterizing some of the play’s figures as “an irritated hanger-on,” a “kind of mean” older brother, an “uncomfortable significant other” and a “somewhat out-of-place” host. Osler said that Olshansky’s writing touched upon the emotions he felt in those roles earlier in his own life.
“I found myself relating a lot to my character; at 13, I shared many of her doubts about the future and about myself,” McCartney said. “It’s very rare that media can so accurately capture that feeling, or portray a quirky young person as something more than a caricature. Also, there’s a puppet. I really can’t emphasize that enough.”
The project was unique for Osler both for its relatability and because it is his first play at Yale. Though he wrote, produced and directed a one-act play in high school, Osler said he had not participated in a theater production at Yale before “Talk Your Age,” and most of his prior experience did not translate to this play. However, Osler said that the novelty provided for a strong learning experience and made it even more unique for him.
Olshansky said she had not believed she would see the play come to life but said it became more than what she had hoped it would be. She and Osler both touched on the importance of taking others seriously when describing what audiences should take away from the play.
“It’s not a problem play in the Shakespearean sense, and it’s not really one meant to challenge audiences by breaking boundaries,” Osler said. “Rather, I’d like to hope that this play works the way that Roger Ebert said that good movies should work: as an empathy machine. No one character is entirely right or entirely wrong in their actions, but I think that empathy for all of them — most of all, for the person who doesn’t feel that they’re taken seriously — would be a pretty great thing for audiences to take home.”
“Talk Your Age” will be performed Thursday through Saturday at 8 p.m., with an additional performance at 2 p.m. on Saturday.