Historic play debuts at Denison; first production in 220 years

MAT SCOTT

Arts & Life Editor

“So ends the comedy” were the unexpected lines spoken at the end of The Traveller Returns.

Judging from the posters around campus, one would never have guessed that the show was a comedy, but Judith Sargent Murray’s writing, adapted by director Mark Bryan and assistant director Heather Grimm ‘17, was surprising in the best of ways.

The history-making play bowed on Friday in Ace Morgan Theatre, marking the first time the play had been performed for a public audience in 220 years.

It wasn’t just the comically exaggerated characters–from the heavy Irish accent of Patrick O’Neal (played by Peter Malicky ‘18) to the endearing ditziness of Mathilda (Katy King ‘17) and the sometimes posturing, high-school-jock attitude of Major Harry Camden (Evan Joslyn ‘19)–that made the play comic. It was the misunderstandings and dramatic irony, the dynamic within the Montague family, and the tension between characters that made the play what it was.

The strongest scenes were those within the Montague household, which included Louisa (Mallory McGill ‘18), Harriet (Rhiannon White ‘17) and Emily Lovegrove (Katie Landoll ‘18), as well as occasionally Mathilda and Bridget (Maddy Bellman ‘18). These scenes were perhaps the most tense of the play as Harriet pleaded with her mother and attempted to politely turn away a suitor, for whom Emily had developed a fondness.

There’s a big plot twist involving those characters, but why spoil that now?

One of the biggest contributing factors to the play’s comedy was the dramatic irony of the show. There were many points during the performance when characters would “step out” of the conversation and deliver lines heard only by the audience members, most of which contained some form of foreshadowing or special information for only us to know until the proper time. This knowledge made certain scenes much more comical because the audience already knew how a certain situation came about while the characters were still trying to put all the pieces together.

All of the actors had very strong performances. As exaggerated and comical as the characters were, everyone took it in stride, and emotions changed from mirth to melancholy in the blink of an eye. As endearing as Mathilda, with all of her stumbling and bumbling could be, Bridget was calm and composed and almost solemn. The contrast between the two servant characters was mirrored by the other two young women in the play. Harriet’s coquettishness was countered by Emily’s demure nature, particularly when around Alberto Stanhope Jr. (Gabe Schenker ‘18) and Major Camden.

The play runs through November 17 in the Ace Morgan Theatre, located in the Theatre Arts building on South Quad (west of Burke). Showtimes are at 8 p.m. and tickets can be reserved by calling the Denison Box Office at 740-587-6231. General admission tickets are $8, and Denison students are free.

Photo courtesy of Denison Theatre