By Christine van der Horst
— Last Monday and Tuesday, AUC’s cafeteria was turned into a small theatre by the performing arts group On Stage. While it caused some inconvenience, the result — the Loving Alice play, with its great casting, interesting scene decoration and a very professional attitude — was well worth it. Its script contained some flaws but the leading roles took this university play to a higher level.
The play, mainly written by second-year Humanities major Pieter Buis and directed by second-year Science major Rosanne Heijstek, starts off with a race through Rose McCourt’s youth. The continuous absence of her mother Alice and the family’s emigration to Buenos Aires have heavily impacted the Boston-born girl, but the sudden death of her father hits her harder than anything. Both Rose and Alice struggle to find a place that they could call home, and the pair’s already shaky relationship enters unbounded territory when Alice decides to apply to the university Rose is attending in Berlin. A complicated and deep story with many side-branches unfolds as the play moves towards its final statement: home can be anywhere you want it to be.
With (international) AUC students occupying most of the seats, the script and its main theme were very suitable and relevant to the audience. However, it was easy to lose track of the plot a noteworthy couple of times, and that confusion could prevent one from being drawn into it. A Greek myth, which was explained part by part throughout the play, is hard to follow and its connection to the main storyline is rather far-fetched: it did not seem to add an extra layer to the play like Buis probably intended it to do, but rather caused confusion among the audience.
Moreover, there were some other aspects of the play that felt somewhat misplaced. The video that was shown towards the end, a compilation of smaller videos of the actors and their family, looked somehow out of context, besides being barely visible. The generally extremely bad quality and the white curtains’ pleats ruining the beamer’s projection made it seem as if nobody had really thought it through.
However, it was visible that On Stage had paid careful attention to the casting. The main characters really brought the play to a higher level and especially Alice McCourt, played by Anna Stribling, a third-year Film major and exchange student from New York, stood out among her peers. Although her character was the most twisted, Stribling pierced right through this. Her loud screams and genuine tears went right through me. I would be lying if I would not say that I was absolutely loving Alice.
Besides some of the actors being noticeably talented, all actors were highly professional. Even though nothing but a white curtain separated the actors backstage from the audience, not a single giggle or a cough reached my ears. Whenever something fell or broke on stage, which actually happened several times (would it be the first night nerves?), it was turned into a part of the play. Furthermore, everybody knew where to go and when, proving the statement ‘practice makes perfect’ absolutely right.
Lastly, the scene decoration was very smartly managed. A rolling wooden platform with different furniture on it, depending on the scene, made transitions run smoothly; the mirrors, first used as tables and only later as true mirrors, were an eye-catching part of the décor too. On Stage worked creatively with the little options they had.
Whereas there was definitely room for improvement, particularly regarding the script, Loving Alice proved itself to be – especially for university standards – a nice play. The talent and attitude is there and some more attention to the script would definitely do the actors justice. Potentially, I would say, it would then outgrow the college, and could be performed outside the Academic Building. Because even though On Stage’s pallets on wheels worked out really well, these actors deserve to perform on a proper stage.