Daily Egyptian

Alice and company shine at Moe

By Chase Myers, @chasemyers_DE

“X” marked the center of the stage this weekend as Alice wandered between dresses hung from the rafters of the C.H. Moe Theater.

“Last Seen Alice,” is an SIU original production written by Jaclyn Grogan and directed by associate professor of theatre Susan Patrick Benson.

The production is one of four plays featured in the Theater Department’s Big Muddy New Play Festival 2015. 

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The comedic story follows Alice, played by Taylor Jelley, a sophomore from Monrovia, Ind., studying theater, as she searches for a way down the river in order to find the younger and happier “Alice.” 

She has been residing in a trailer park for the past two years, which is owned by the exuberant Betsy, played by Matlyn Rybak, a junior from Hebron, Ind., studying theater. 

As Betsy begs Alice to stay in the park, hoping she would eventually take the park’s ownership, she realizes her RV keeps changing colors for an unknown reason.

In the midst of this phenomenon, Alice is greeted by the curious, middle-aged couple Frank and Louise, played by longtime performer Kim Curlee, and Andrea Rendleman, a graduate student from Carbondale studying theater.

Tension grows between Alice and the newly arrived couple because she prefers to live in privacy, whereas Frank and Louise are more outspoken and extroverted.

The tension begins to fade as Frank and Louise reveal they have also lost a part of themselves, a son, and have been travelling in grief ever since his death.

Alice seeks help from the couple to watch her trailer and make sure it does not change colors, but seemingly every time something changes in Alice’s life, the trailer follows suit. 

The couple does what it can to help, but in the end, the change cannot be controlled and the production ends with a deep conversation between Louise and Alice regarding change as an inevitable part of life. 

As the play concludes, the well-executed writing and presentation cannot go unnoticed.

Louise’s character was once a peculiar English teacher and the script reflects this. Words such as “look” are replaced with “observe,” and “cats” with “felines,” providing an obscure literary element to the play.

“This is a world that has different language and different rules,” Rendleman said. “It’s an unusual play that really goes out that far.” 

The conversation between the characters was fluid and never felt awkward throughout the production, regardless of how polar opposite some of the character’s personalities were.

Although Frank and Betsy were more lively characters compared to Alice and Louise, each performer grabbed the audience with their own personal charisma. 

The C.H. Moe Theater itself served a crucial role in the performance, allowing the audience to feel like residents in the park. The performers also played off this intimacy and included attendees in several jokes throughout.

The advantage the space has over a conventional theater is the connection it provides between the audience and performers. 

“It’s a wonderful space to work in because it’s in the round,” Rendleman said. “It has its challenges and you cannot be blocking anybody … but it’s a really great theater to just go and sit there.” 

Rendleman’s daughter, Jane, and husband, John, were both in attendance during Saturday’s performance. 

“I was impressed at how technically seemless it was,” John said. “The lighting, the music, the action, everything went very well.”

“Last Seen Alice,” was a perfect fit for the C.H. Moe Theater and set the bar for future performances in the space.

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