The theatre department opened its season on Thursday in the Mark A. Chapman Theatre with “Taking Steps” by Alan Ayckbourn, directed by professor of theatre Jennifer Vellenga.
“Taking Steps” is a comedic show about a dysfunctional group of characters: a landlord, a docile solicitor, an alcoholic owner of a successful bucket business, an indecisive dancer, her brother and his girlfriend. The plot revolves around the different characters not knowing who is in the Victorian mansion and where they are as the landlord attempts to cut a deal to sell the house. This results in a series of hilarious interpersonal reactions between the characters and the drama that unfolds. I won’t spoil this for you — the show is worth the ticket.
The cast makes use of a set that has been very uniquely — and very cleverly —designed. The Chapman Theatre’s extended thrust is excellently used in separating the three different levels of the house, featuring a living room, and two bedrooms “stacked” above each other, all on the one stage floor. A chandelier, hung from the ceiling of the living room, illustrated the separation between floors: when one character dances in a bedroom on the middle level (a wonderfully choreographed comedic number) the chandelier above would shake, noticed by the actors in the living room. Overall the set and the actors’ interaction with both each other and with the different rooms on each level held the audience’s suspension of disbelief.
Additionally, the actors made use of “flat steps,” carpet squares arranged to simulate the non-existent staircases. The cast stepped with hilariously high knees (and sometimes other equally as funny actions) “up and down” the steps — one of the best running jokes of the show.
The costumes, hair and makeup reflected the characters’ daily lives and personalities, with a British flair that fit the show. Lighting matched the setting and storms of London as well as the use of props, as the cast turned lamps on and off in different rooms.
The only true problem the show suffers from is the actors’ constant competition for the audience’s attention across different “levels” of the house. For example, while a scene between two characters takes place in the living room, a second comedic scene begins on the third level — either emphasizing the point of the character’s dialogue or an addition to the show to emphasize that the other character’s ambitions may not be as clean as they pretend to be — distracting from the scene already taking place and to the many moving characters already on set. However, it should be noted that even in a blunder of accidentally knocking a prop lamp off a table opening night, senior in theatre Olivia Carter, who played former dancer Elizabeth Crabbe, recovered flawlessly, with the rest of the cast going about their business onstage as they should.
Overall, the cast was a cohesive ensemble of relatively experienced actors who put on a great show about a British farce. “Taking Steps” will continue to run in the Chapman Theatre in from Oct. 10-12 and 17-20, with tickets for $11 available online and at the box office outside the theatre. For anyone looking for a good laugh, this is your chance.
Ryan Urban is a graduate student in mass communications. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Collegian. Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.