Noah (Michael Schulman ’03) is a disconnected, retired comparative religion professor living in seclusion with his second wife Claude (Lauren Roggers ’05), an easily aroused sex therapist, whose isolation is trampled by the invasion of Noah’s three full-grown children. Polly (Katie Vagnino ’03) is an intellectual but love-paralyzed girl working on a dissertation about the women of “The Illiad.” Sig (Sally Bernstein ’03) is a sell-out artist who slept her way through art school and beyond. The role of Seth, the embodiment of all that is manly, is played magnificently by Cameron Abadi ’04.
Each of the main characters desperately attempts to discover a true meaning for living while finding gross ways in which to purge themselves of their pasts. Polly slits her wrists, Sig throws up her meals, and Seth firebombs buildings. The family is in a state of constant bickering over who is to blame for their mother’s abandonment. Ultimately, they confront the memory of their mother and resolve to move forward in spite of their damaged history.
The scene in which Sid sleepwalks to the top of the roof and then says, “Mother — catch me,” feels like an invocation of a higher power for protection and comforting by a desperate woman. This moment is only the most intense of many that revolve around the role of a mother figure. Even the sexual relations between Claude and Titus (David Laufgraben ’04), an arts journalist, revolve around Titus’ twisted longing for maternal care. Rounding out the characters with ‘mommy issues’ is Seth’s pregnant girlfriend Lori (Julia Hart ’03), who spent much of her childhood locked up in a closet by her overwhelmed mother. In some ways, this deranged family is a small-scale replica for the human condition: always searching for fulfillment, never actually finding it in a tangible manner, but choosing to go ahead and live life anyway.
“I wanted to take this play and harness its comedy under the structure of a character-driven drama,” Lew said. “The play is rife with fully-developed emotional personas undergoing absolutely real pains, and it is in realizing those personas and committing to the hilt that the humor bursts out.”
The overwhelming seriousness of “Freedomland” makes its moments of comic relief especially welcome. The profanity of language used by certain characters, particularly Seth, seems excessive at first, but it comes to feel necessary towards the end. The cluttered set creates a portrait of a family made up of disorganized minds, with the most eye-catching artifact being a crucifix placed atop an old piano. Though “Freedomland” will have a different take-home message for everyone who sees it, it is clearly a testament to the fact that love always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres.