MTV’s “Real World” slogan reads: “when people stop being polite and start getting real.” And while the characters in “Commandments,” written by Matthew George ’11, get real, they were never very polite to begin with.
“Commandments” is a story about family. Set in a kitchen and TV room filled with packing boxes, the play quickly shows the audience that the Worthingtons are set to move to Texas the next day in order to “start over.” The five characters in the show are on stage for nearly the full hour and a half, giving them the space to show what happens when the members of a family break free from their stereotypical roles and get real with one another.
[ydn-legacy-photo-inline id=”826″ ]
[ydn-legacy-photo-inline id=”827″ ]
Katharine Pitt ’12 appears as a struggling, single mother. Though her overreactions and ticks begin as mildly grating, they slowly become intrinsic to her character’s development. She spends most of the show struggling to keep her cool, do the “right” thing and clean up spilled jam.
Amy Rosenblum ’12, adeptly plays the multifaceted Nicole, a petulant 21 year-old who has recently fallen in love with her boyfriend, Patrick, played by a superb Jamie Biondi ’12. Patrick is at first the straight man who has walked into an average manic American family. But as everyone starts breaking down around him, the audience sees that his solid, moralistic attitude may not be as firm as previously thought.
Keith Rubin ’12, as Tom, is a perfect smart-ass teenager. Wearing a baggy sweatshirt, he judges everything from metaphors to morals with a quick, clear logic that makes him less a teenager and more a litigator.
Each character starts out in his or her respective American family sitcom role. Nicole mocks her mother’s dinners for being merely salads from bags. Patrick tries desperately to please the Worthingtons. Tom shrugs off familial duty in favor of watching “Judge Judy.” It’s hard to say that anyone steals a show like this one, in which each actor is incredibly talented, working to support castmates even while being berated by them. But Tessa Williams ’10, as the snappy, relatively racist grandma, takes much of the limelight with great quips (“You look half like your father, and he looked full like a gremlin”) and a superb Southern old lady accent.
The story of “Commandments” explores what it means to play a role in a family. What do our positions entail? Through the few courses of this climactic Worthington dinner, the audience sees what happens when individuals break out from their typecasting and start getting real. The importance of family obligation takes center stage, demonstrating that every aspect of life comes with both sacrifices and duties. But once the commitment to obligation is broken, we see the true source and meaning of familial duty and familial love.
George has created a play that manages to be biting, bitter, tragic and uproariously funny. Beyond the dialogue, the play is a unique piece in the world of contemporary theatrical performance: It is refreshing to see clear character development within each performer. No person is left untouched or unchanged by the vicious words that are slung and the critical events that occur. Each character is full bodied and self-standing — a testament to the acting, the writing and, of course, the directing.
“Commandments” is the second show Austin Trow ’12 has directed for the Dramat. Trow has staged “Commandments” like a dance or song; each character moves fluidly in and out of his or her space, against a crescendo of shrieks.
While lines from “Commandments” are just as quoteable as those from “The Real World,” George’s witty banter and brawls will provoke thoughts more to do with family dysfunction than breakdowns in the confessional.