Opening this Wednesday, March 28 in Walsh Black Box Theater, “The Flu Season” proves to be a delightfully perplexing fusion of meta-theater and love story. The play is narrated by a Prologue and an Epilogue played by Amelia Powell (COL ’12 ) and Allie Villarreal (COL ’12), respectively, who provide insight into the events that unfold at Crossroads Psychiatric Retreat Center, which serves as the play’s setting. The fact that the play’s prologue and epilogue are characters indicates the nature of “The Flu Season” as a story that comments on itself; memorable quotations and wordplay riddle the script, which director Robert Duffley (COL ’12) says is his favorite part of the play.

The production opens with Prologue speaking to the audience in the dark about the play to follow and identifies herself as the Prologue. Both she and Epilogue are dressed in tuxedos with opposingaesthetics, perfectly setting up their complimentary dynamic. Prologue freezes as Epilogue steps on stage and explains that the name of the play has changed and that much time has passed sincePrologue was written. This intriguing presentation of a person as something written is just the first of many ways the play intentionally confuses us. From the first two monologues, the audience is already grappling with the way in which the play seems to contradict itself. Duffley says in his Director’s Note that the “play’s most riveting feature is … its delicate balances,” and indeed these balances verge on paradoxes that keep the viewers on the edge of their seats.

The audience will watch as love blossoms between a male and female patient in a psychiatric ward, but the story is sporadically interrupted by Prologue and Epilogue and overseen by a doctor and a nurse (Brendan Quinn [COL ’14] and Vivian Cook [COL ’13], respectively) that seem to need more help than the patients at times. We hope that the Woman (Lily Kaiser [COL ’12]) and the Man (Danny Sullivan [MSB ’14]) get together from their first interaction at a hospital payphone. Much of the relationship is left to the audience’s imagination, strengthened by the chemistry Kaiser and Sullivan share. Villareal and Powell also give captivating performances. They successfully carry the disjointed plot of the show, and Prologue lifts our hopes while Epilogue breaks them immediately after.

We struggle alongside the couple as countless questions about the monotony of life, the unstoppable passage of time and pointlessness of love are thrown our way. The story of the hospital patients and the subtly funny characters of Doctor and Nurse keep the audience engaged despite the intentionally disorganized way in which the story and its themes are presented. The script acknowledges its confusing nature with compelling lines from Prologue. She stares down individual audience members when she says, “My questions won’t get us anywhere. My answers won’t either.”

“The Flu Season” is a quintessential Nomadic Theatreproduction with its minimalist set and abstract presentation of the story. For most of the play, the stage is darkly lit; the audience glances from one side to the other because of the physical balance set up to enhance the thematic ones presented in the play. In many ways, it leaves us with too many questions, but is a welcome break from those shows that tell the viewer what to think. The entirely student-run production bites off a lot, purposefully leaving some things un-chewed. “The Flu Season”is sure to intrigue, challenge and enchant its audience all at once.

Have a reaction to this article? Write a letter to the editor.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*