A blind date, a high school reunion and an FBI investigation. Sound unrelated? The student-written play “Seat Yourself” tries to connect these disparate stories through a compilation of nine scenes ranging from a romantic dinner to a suicide case, all of which try to prove that we are all just actors. While by the end the play sets up its mission, it is not altogether convincing. Believable acting and a few compelling storylines keep the work from being a total loss, but are not enough to save it.
The first scene, “The Hike,” leaves the audience bewildered. It begins when a large group of what look like explorers (it’s never fully clarified) arrive in a rainforest full of plastic leaves that the actors acknowledge as such. A few of the characters make reference to “The Twilight Zone,” which sets up the expectation that the following scenes will be filled with oddities and strange twists. The next two, however, depict everyday situations, not anything out of the ordinary.
“The Reunion (Let’s Meet at Carl’s Jr.)” is set in a restaurant where high school friends have reunited after their first semester of college. This second scene does little to redeem the play’s confusing beginning. Instead, it introduces a new flaw: a bad sense of humor. Throughout the scene, the audience shift uncomfortably in their seats as they endure bad puns and cheesy jokes. It’s ready-made sitcom humor, but without a laugh track, it’s just awkward.
The following scene, “The Blind Date (Pina Colada),” compensates with the seductive Christina Hull ’14 and the charming Benjamin White ‘13. Their mannerisms masterfully reflect the sexual tension and flirtation of a first date. The characters, a wannabe writer-turned-receptionist and a middle-aged man looking for “something different” from his mundane life, were complex, conflicted and, most importantly, credible.
While the storylines vary drastically from one another, there are sporadic events and characters that connect them. The main character in the scene “The Fourth Wall,” a troupe actor carrying out an illicit affair (Tom Stanley-Becker ’13), re-emerges in “Yuri” as the subject of an investigation by the FBI. “The Fourth Wall” is the first scene where an overarching directorial vision emerges. Previous to this scene, the third in the lineup, the other storylines seem completely unrelated. Along with “Yuri,” it gives focus “Seat Yourself” and keeps it from covering too many issues at once. Both “Yuri” and “The Fourth Wall” help the play’s pieces to cohere, if only temporarily.
While scenes like “Blind Date” achieve a level of emotional profundity, others, such as “Strangers in an Empty Sidecar,” which tells the story of Clare (also Hull), a medical school dropout whose boyfriend is in a coma, try too hard to be sentimental and ultimately come across as trite. This was definitely true of the final scene, “Epilogue,” in which all of the characters begin to deconstruct the stage while calling out lines meant to sum up the message of the play: Everybody acts; it’s a necessary part of life. The actors’ deconstruction of the stage, which calls attention to the fact that they are indeed actors, makes sense, but without this scene, the theme would be completely lost to the audience.
All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have to give them something to work with.