This past weekend, a small ensemble of Augsburg students performed “The Misunderstanding,” written by Albert Camus. Directed by student Del Logeais, the play is a family drama with a morbid twist: a son who abandoned his family years earlier returns to the hotel run by his sister and mother in secret, not knowing that the women make their living by killing the guests they lodge.
Though the audience was informed before the show that we would be experiencing an immersive piece of theatre, I’m not sure that immersive is the way to describe it. The play opens with several small scenes occurring simultaneously, at which point some characters did interact with the audience, but after that initial scene the audience really was simply mobile as opposed to immersed. However, I found the experience of physically travelling from scene to scene enhanced the drama of the show.
Though the audience was not present to the actors, it was as if we existed in the same realm as the spirit-like ensemble characters who guided us from scene to scene.
As the play began, Ava Fojtik and Mia Lawrence, who play Martha and Mother respectively, introduced us to two characters living in their own minds, unable and unwilling to express to each other the thoughts which haunted them privately. I mistakenly worried that initial emotional reservation was the full range Fojik and Lawrence would be taking their characters to, but I could not have been more wrong. In one of the final scenes when Martha and Mother are confronted with the reality of who they’ve murdered, Lawrence truly terrified me when confronting Martha over knowing the identity of their guest.
Leor Szleifer and Dexieng Yang portrayed a sweet romance as Jan and his wife Maria for the short time they were together onstage. Yang left the audience with a bone-chilling final scene, facing her husband’s murder at the hands of his own remorseless sister, begging for help that would never come.
Though only about 40 minutes in run-time, this production stayed with me long after I’d left the theater. The student actors expressed hope, misery and regret in a way that truly resonated, bringing the audience to reflect on the unfair and absurd parts of existence.
This article first appeared in the Friday, February 2, 2018, Edition of The Echo.