Once, under the sterile lighting and amid the echoing noise of Morse dining hall, I got into an argument with my best friend about the legitimacy of Chai a genre of tea. Later on, in the crisp autumn air of Old Campus, that same friend and I got into a drunken 3 a.m. shouting match about his over-romanticisation of death.
“It’s not funny,” I had said quietly at the time. The scene vividly replays in my brain on a never-ending track, always resurfacing just when I want it to.
“It’s not funny,” Hana, played by Alexa Stanger ’21, says under the yellow glow of the spotlight. Her words are spoken at the audience but directed towards Adiche, played by Branson Rideaux ’20, as he huddles between a bulletin board of posters and a graffiti covered rubbish bin.
My brain runs on a loop, or, more accurately, a mess of loops that get tangled up with one another, coming to no coherent conclusion besides a frustration directed at no one but myself.
This weekend, some of these loops unwind into coherence on stage. If you can’t already tell, this Hana is not me. Rather, she is a character inspired by me in “Outside Wednesday Night at Toad’s”. The play goes up this weekend in the Saybrook Underbrook and is written by Zulfiqar Mannan ’20, directed by Casey Odesser ’20 and produced by Xander de Vries ’19, all of whom are my close friends.
Emotional, raw, truthful to their core, and, very honestly, far superior to the images that dance relentlessly in my head, this story is there for all of Yale to witness.
Seeing myself on stage is something I never thought would happen, and something I don’t quite know how to describe. The play is my memories made surreal, jarring but peculiarly therapeutic, an indescribable trip of nostalgia harkening back to the drunken nights spent in Bingham during freshman year.
As Anya, played by Ayla Khan ’21, said, ‘Outside Wednesday Night at Toad’s’ is about “sexy, impulsive, depressed teenagers at the cusp of adulthood, no parent in sight and no adult who cared.” It is an “explosion of people falling in love, or to drugs or imploding one and within themselves.”
And honestly, with a few caveats thrown in, playwright Mannan has it precisely right.
Watching Stanger say the things still burning on the tip of my tongue, watching Rideaux break down over the same feelings I tried to help my friend avoid, watching Khan embody the torn heart of my best friend — unsure of how to respond to the destructive souls of those closest to her — was not something I ever thought I’d witness, on stage no less. But these characters, inspired by my friends and me, embodied our attitudes, intonations and ways of thinking and snapping in response to words gone awry to an almost unnerving degree of impeccability.
To be very honest, I think Alexa was a better Hana than I was or will ever be — at least she knew, better than I did at the moment, what needed to be said to Adiche under the swirling lights and traffic outside Toad’s.
On a snowy winter night last semester, Zulfi somehow convinced me it was a good idea to leave the warmth of my room to venture into the arctic tundra towards his. There, I read Zulfi’s script for the first time, basking in its honesty, passion and nostalgia for what had gone by. I can now say that the scenes playing out in front of me, choreographed by Odesser, truly surpassed what my brain envisaged when reading the script for the first time that night. “Outside Wednesday Night at Toad’s” somehow deals with weighty issues in a manner that lightens their nature without lightening their message.
And what precisely did I get from the play? Not the breath-stopping anxiety or spiral of introversion and negativity I thought the play would trigger, but somehow, a thought-provoking comprehension of the world around me.
Sometimes, nothing makes sense. Sometimes, you’re just being you and people will lap you up voraciously one moment and regurgitate you in disgust the next. Sometimes, even when armed with the love of your two best friends and the admiration of others, you can still feel like a fish flopping desperately out of water. And, in the twisted rationale of your brain, you are to blame.
Sometimes, the accountability you feel leaves you weak and trembling in front of dancing headlights — their assured approach somehow assuaging the chaos inside.
While I never thought that the thoughts I had conveyed in confidence to my friends would be converted into a script, I am genuinely thankful they have been. As strange as it is being simultaneously within and without, for me, at least, it was a recuperative experience.
Amid desk chairs taken casually from classrooms and hand-made chalk boards, the scenes unfolding before my rapidly beating heart somehow brought resolution to the debates raging within me. Did I say the right words that night? As I gripped the hand of my friend and rested my head on his shoulder, I knew I must have.
That soft yellow lighting cast on Hana-the-character somehow managed to cast a warm light on my mentally exhausted self as well.
To Zulfi and Casey, that noise you made? It was music to my ears.
Hana Davis | email@example.com .