Anderson, Indiana

Marcus provides a thoughtful trip

Fri, 2010-12-03 10:50 -- univcomm
December 3, 2010

Some car rides are rewarding. Others merely take you from point A to B. And with a few, you’re just glad when the trip is over.

You’ll ride through all those sentiments in Marcus Is Walking: Scenes From the Road, a play of vignettes centered around cars. The 90-minute performance is part of the Wisdom Tooth Theater Project at Anderson University.

marcusPerformances are at 10:30 p.m. today and 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Byrum Hall. Performances are also at 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 9, 10 and 11.

The play was originally commissioned in 1997 by Otterbein College in Westerville, Ohio and it is thoughtful and ready-made for university students.

[Photo: Dori Elliott chats with Aaron Jones on a drive home in Marcus is Walking. Credit: Scott L. Miley/The Herald Bulletin]

The 12-member cast, assembled ably by directors Aaron Ploof and Sarah White, take on 11 quick scenes employing the same prop: a van-sized car skeleton made of PVC pipe where the audience can see all the interactions inside the vehicle.

The star of the play is the car as a symbol for navigating a place in life, though the prop itself never quite comes to life. On this stage, and during a Tuesday rehearsal, the car is a vehicle to carry plots. Only once does the physical presence alter (other than being moved about the stage) and that’s when it becomes a convertible and dancer Yara Elaine packs the car for a festive weekend.

Performers firmly in the driver seat include:

  • Chandler Chastain, first as a teen celebrating his car by dancing with air guitar, and secondly, as an overprotective dad watching son Marcus on Halloween. The latter segment is one of the most profound, and funny, for the evening as young Marcus — hidden under a ghost costume — innocently teaches his father to let down his shield. Chastain is committed and transports the audience fully into the scenes.
  • Dori Elliott is vibrant as a tipsy woman driving a younger man home on a turnpike. The car, though not safe in her hands, seems to be a carrier of convenience until Elliott convincingly experiences a panic attack and grips the wheel tighter as her paranoia grows.

Of note, the minimal lighting is accommodating and helps reflect actors’ emotions and exterior action. The sound effects, however, on this rehearsal night were sometimes jolting.

By the weaker second act, we expect different symbolism but the scenes aren’t geared to depth. Yet, Ploof and White have collected an assorted group of travelers who make the most of the script for an overall pleasant journey.

— Scott L. Miley is associate features editor at The Herald Bulletin. Reposted with permission.

Anderson University is a private Christian university of 2,700 undergraduate and graduate students in central Indiana. Anderson continues to be recognized as a top Christian college: in 2010, U.S. News and World Report ranked Anderson University among the best colleges and universities in the Midwest for the seventh consecutive year. Established in 1917 by the Church of God, Anderson University offers more than 65 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in business, education, music, nursing, and theology.