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REVIEW: Squirrel Girl Goes Nuts

Freak (left) gets berated by Modoc (right), played by Marquist Price.

Eastfield Theatre hit the ground running with their latest performance, “Squirrel Girl Goes To College.” Some actors tripped along the way, but that’s all part of the fun.

When the theatre department announced its first play in more than four years, director Emily Gray went with an admittedly eyebrow-raising premise. A niche Marvel hero coupled with campy source material is quite the heroic choice. She confirmed the department wanted to do something fun, which was respectable considering the sincerity present in each actor.

Thursday’s performance was for families and friends and, judging by the audience’s laughter radiating throughout the theater, the show delivered. Some actors even struggled to suppress their own laughter. Slip-ups were minor, but when they were present the actors played it off as part of the show.

In a scene where Doctor Doom fell into self-reflection, he flipped up his cape as he sat down, but the actor did so with such force that it unintentionally draped over his head, earning a few chuckles. The show never took itself too seriously, and instead doubled  down on its wackiness. 

The lines were written to be exaggerated. Marvel quips are taken to a whole new level when characters such as Modoc boom their motivations in the most self-aggrandizing manner.

Side characters had their own time in the spotlight, too. One of the notable gags involved an “evil first-grade teacher” being involved in everyone’s backstory, which was set up to her being the real villain of the story, and the actor had fun delivering her reveal.

Meanwhile, Gray played with the stage by opting for a thrust stage, a structure that positions the audience on the stage and close to the action. The format has its merits but several key scenes were spent watching the actors’ backs. 

Such a visually-busy play doesn’t translate well to this format. Audience members were forced to dart their eyes between Squirrel Girl, her classmates, and the squirrel choir. The play made the audience choose what to focus on, and oftentimes it was background gags involving the squirrel choir. 

Despite the thrust stage, most reactions came from the comedic incidentals, especially Doctor Doom who never left without a laugh. The play eventually distanced itself from the main plot involving Squirrel Girl and her classmates, which isn’t a fault of the play itself, but the awkward stage placement made it harder to follow.

Of course, with any new play and style, there are bound to be slip-ups, but experimentation can provide a learning experience. This most likely is a valuable directing exercise for Gray.

Eastfield’s theatre department is in good hands with Gray’s casting and presentation. The play itself showed how much the stakes can be raised according to the material, giving itself a satisfying conclusion by going completely off the rails. Not once did the performance hold itself back. Once some edges are smoothed out, the college can expect the theatre department to show off its strength in the next performance.

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CARMEN GUZMAN, Editor in Chief

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