Category Archives: Theatre

Beyond history, ‘Hamilton’ offers lesson in dangers of ambition

By Raho Faraha

San Jose, CA

You have married an Icarus,” sings Phillipa Soo broken-heartedly in the hit Broadway musical ‘Hamilton.’ Soo plays Alexander Hamilton’s wife, Eliza, who is devastated after finding out her husband had an affair with another woman. She continues:  “He has flown too close to the sun.”

This show is known for using an unconventional medium—musical theater—to teach history, and also for exclusively casting people of color to play America’s white founding fathers. But ‘Hamilton’ is also a lesson on the danger of ambition mixed with arrogance.

In the musical, Hamilton is portrayed as a highly-intelligent, headstrong, and ambitious character at the forefront of America’s birth. His ambition was fueled by a need to escape his penniless past in the Caribbean. To join New England’s elite faction, Hamilton becomes a major general in the Revolutionary War and marries Eliza Schuyler, the daughter of a decorated war hero. Over the course of his life, his drive turns him into a power-hungry politician who becomes Secretary of the Treasury. But he still wants more.

His arrogant and overly sensitive nature stem from a place of immense insecurity. But ambition can only hide deep-seated insecurities for so long. 

Icarus fell from grace when he ignored his father’s warnings, while Hamilton fell from grace when he published the Reynolds Pamphlet, needlessly exposing the intricate details of his affair and ensuing extortion. Both Icarus and Hamilton allowed their ambition to get the better of them. Ambition can be an asset, but these stories should serve as a warning: Don’t fly too close to the sun.

‘Waltz’ is a tale of love and tenderness

By Nicole Chow

New York, NY

Anxious breathing in the waiting room. A monologue uncovering emotions. Quaky legs locked in nervousness. This is how the character Anna opens Princeton Summer Theater’s production of ‘The Baltimore Waltz,’ a play by Paula Vogel.

Anna is waiting for the diagnosis of her brother, who has AIDS. Vogel, whose brother died of AIDS, based the play on real life events. But in a twist, Anna and Carl switch perspectives in the play. Anna becomes the one who’s contracted a strange illness—ATD: Acquired Toilet Disease—which she supposedly caught from using a public bathroom while teaching in a elementary school.

The two characters go on an adventure around Europe, where Anna goes on a sexual spree. This sexual desire comes from one of the stages of coping with the acknowledgement of your own death—lust. The first night they arrive in Paris, Anna starts to face these stages. At one point, she begins to fantasize about the idea of death, standing in the middle of the stage with gloomy light and a soft presence. “This is how I’d like to die, with dignity,” she said.

The play was marvelously performed by Abby Melick, Sean Peter Drohan and Evan Gedrich. From the acting to the technical elements like lighting, sound and stage design, the play was impeccable in every sense. Sure, there were stutters, maybe a couple, but the level of professionalism and meticulous movement was impressive. I was sitting dead center, seat 105, and let me tell you, it was the best seat in the house. From that point of view, I was in the middle of it all. I was the dream the characters looked up to, the audience they spoke with. Every placement and movement of each actor was strategic and poetic. The lights and the colors illuminated the stage as so that it illustrated the mind of the characters. The music served to set the time and feeling, the unimaginable beat of the moment. Whenever two characters stood in center stage, the beautiful imagery would remind me how important angles are in a story, both physical and mental.

There are symbols in this play, most prominently stuffed bunnies, one of which Carl seems too attached to. Carl and another character smuggle bunnies here and there, hiding something inside of each—not quite drugs, but meaning. But what are they trying to keep and hold so dearly on to? Is it life and hope? Drugs? Health? A cure?

Running into the hospital room, jumping into the bed and screaming for help, Anna begins to end the play, revealing that everything that took place after her and her brother switched perspectives isn’t part of the real world; it relied on Anna’s mind and her fantasies.

The play ends with Anna and Carl dancing a waltz, him in a suit and her in the only piece of clothing she’s been wearing throughout the whole story—swift and energetic moves, parallel to the way they lived, yet so full of love and tenderness.

“Appropriate” tackles racism, family dynamics

By Yasmina Cabrera
New York City, NY

In American culture, it’s common to depict issues of race through a token person of color – a generally one-dimensional character who goes against all stereotypes of their ethnic group and whose sole purpose in the story is to further the character development of the racist protagonist. Think Sidney Poitier in ‘In the Heat of the Night,’ Wilmer Valderrama in ‘That ’70s Show,’ and Samuel L. Jackson in anything.

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A story of a father’s hidden past

By Abby Dotterer
Casper, WY

Parents are usually perceived as loving, caring people who can do no wrong — at least to their children. But what happens when you learn your father, the one who changed your diapers and went to each of your football games, wasn’t who you thought he was?

“Appropriate,” written by Princeton University alumnus Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, is a play that follows an Arkansas family who gathers to divvy up their recently deceased father’s estate. The line delivery sometimes felt cheesy and over-performed, and the storyline is as unresolved as the issues it represents.

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Play fails to live up to the myth

By Jasmin Lee
Oakland Gardens, N.Y.

When Orpheus looked back, Eurydice disappeared — so did the audience.

Directed by Wesley Cornwell and written by award-winning playwright Sarah Ruhl, Eurydice retells the myth of Orpheus and his wife in a modernized setting from Eurydice’s perspective.

The play was not memorable. The production did have some clever aspects and notable scenes supported by a strong cast. However, the modernization didn’t capture the essence of the original. The humor didn’t correlate with the narrative and some of the concepts were too abstract. Continue reading

‘Eurydice’ confounds, entices audiences

By Sharon Bayantemur
Brooklyn, N.Y.

Whether it’s a creative use of string to serve as a makeshift wedding ring or unnatural sounding dialogue at the beginning of the play, “Eurydice” has its ups and downs. Its theme of ambiguity is established early in the play when Orpheus describes a song he wrote as “interesting or not interesting. It just is.”

The Princeton Summer Theatre’s production, written by Sarah Ruhl, is running from Aug. 6-16 at the Hamilton Murray Theater. It’s a modern take on an ancient Greek myth in which a half-mortal, Orpheus, enters the underworld to save the woman he loves. This version was centered on Eurydice instead of Orpheus and how he is able to charm people around him with his music. Continue reading

Princeton Summer Theatre presents ‘Time Stands Still’

By Kathy Kang
Camarillo, Calif.

People want to do their best in the world and struggle to do so, which is heartbreaking,” said Emma Watt ’13, when discussing the Princeton Summer Theatre’s production of “Time Stands Still.”

The play, written by Donald Margulies, is the fourth and final show of the summer seasons, said Watt, who is the theater’s artistic director. Continue reading