Walking into the Black Box Theater, one is immediately in a time warp. The stage is so impressive, simply and authentically designed, it transports you instantaneously into the early twentieth century. As the actors come on to the stage, their costumes draw you into this world. And then— the play begins.
Written by Brian Friel and directed by LPC’s theater faculty Ken Ross, the Tony Award winning play “Dancing at Lughnasa” takes place in Ireland in 1936 and is centered around five unmarried sisters. This tale of a family living a meager existence in a small village was magically filled with life as the LPC student actors drew the audience in, making the surrounding set feel like a real home.
The narrator of the story, Michael Evans, played by Arsalan Khan, recounts the story as the play happens from his perspective as an adult remembering his childhood.
As the only child born out of wedlock, he also adds a level of complexity to the story with Michael’s father, Gerry Evans, played by Christopher Granlund, and the underlying social issues both these characters create.
The highlighted happier moments in the mostly serious play come through a radio nicknamed Marconi, which brings Irish music and dance into their world. In the dreary lives of these single women, music brings them hope and romance.
The conflict between the sisters was driven by despair as the lines between order and chaos became thinner and thinner. As the moral compass of each character begins to diverge and circumstances become dire due to loss of employment, change is inevitable. The pressure, both internal and external, leads to the disconnection of the family, who go their separate ways in the end.
The performances by the seasoned and believable actors made the play charming and upbeat. But the real brilliance in this performance is how it comes to life through the set surrounding it. The first thing that is notable is the stage and props.
As director, Ross does the casting, coaching, blocking and staging. For the scenery, independent stage designer Justine Law helped design the set and props. After designing the stage, she handed the process over to LPC’s Theater 48 class who then created the stage and props accordingly, allowing the students to see their skills used in a real play and be appreciated by a real audience.
Because the play’s story line is placed in Ireland, the actors all had Irish accents, which is also impressive. Ross explained that Titian Lish, the Theater/Performing Arts Coordinator, who is also an instructor at LPC in the theater department and dialect coach, taught the students the appropriate accents.
And then there was the dancing. LPC alum, choreographer and dancer, Che Akhundov, was called in to teach the student actors how to do the Irish jigs they performed.
The overall professional and eloquent performance delivered to the audience by students and teachers makes this a community and college wide must see for those drawn to the performing arts.
There is something especially different and fresh about community performances in the entertainment industry. The experience goes a bit deeper than performances by individuals we have no connection to at all. It brings entertainment closer to home and supports local performers and entertainers.
The play will run Friday/Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m. General admission tickets are $15, and $10 for students and seniors. For tickets, go to http://lpcazure.laspositascollege.edu/calendar/index.php?eID=93.