Play tackles power dynamics with fairy tale twist

Unique Bexley ’10 (Willa) is embraced by Elliot Karl ’12 (Andy) in a scene from “Where the Seasons Sleep.”

Unique Bexley ’10 (Willa) is embraced by Elliot Karl ’12 (Andy) in a scene from “Where the Seasons Sleep.”

Along with the Neverland Players, Wesley Jenkins’ ’09 “Where the Seasons Sleep,” a result of Jenkins’ semester-long independent study in theatre, will kick off a run of student-directed performances over the next few weeks.

“It’s a fairy tale play, but put in a modern world,” Jenkins said. It chronicles the lives of Willa (Unique Bexley ’10), a woman who deals with the abuse of her husband, Andy (Elliot Karl ’12), who instigates fear in his wife and 12-year-old daughter, April (Emma O’Polka ’12).

Andy starts off as a normal character whose passiveness is taken for granted, until he suddenly transforms into an angry, dominant husband who rapes his wife and brings misery to his family. Willa tries to find exactly what made her husband this way while also striving to repair her family’s shattered bonds.

The play examines the impact of abusing power and using power on its characters. Viewers will notice this shift of power—from Willa’s dominance over Andy in the beginning to the possessed husband’s abusiveness which forces the wife to regain her power once again. Willa is helped by characters that represent the four seasons, who serve as her “fairy godmothers” throughout the play. They help guide her along the way, but also set up obstacles designed to challenge her character throughout.

“Seasons” also addresses issues of domestic battery and hostility. “In some ways, this play celebrates ‘Take Back The Night,’ which remembers those who suffered domestic abuse,” Maureen Kennedy ’11 (Winter) said. “It’s very empowering if you’ve been in such a situation, or know someone who has.”

Jenkins hopes that the issues discussed will provoke thought and conversation. “This play is not only about mothers, but also about family tension—and a lot of it,” he said. “I guess I’m weird.” Jenkins hopes viewers will “search for their own interpretations—after all, I like for the play to speak for itself.”

Jenkins and the cast admit, though, that the play’s themes make it difficult to perform the roles of characters placed in such extreme situations. Karl finds it particularly difficult to perform Andy’s role. “Practicing rape scenes is difficult—especially when your friend is playing the victim,” he said. “It feels weird to ask them afterwards, ‘hey, you want to go to lunch with me?'”

Bexley’s role as an abused wife has given her the same attitude. “It’s hard to play a character who has to admit defeat, especially because the character used to be strong and struggles to regain that strength. You feel bad for the character once you become part of them and they become part of you,” she said.

But like most casts, the acting has had no effect on their relationship offstage. “The strength of family bonds is strongest and stands the test of time and conflict,” said Grace Carroll ’12.

“Where The Seasons Sleep” will be performed tonight at 7 p.m. and again on Saturday at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. in Bucksbaum’s Flanagan Theatre.