Monday, October 12, 2015

Review: How to Get Away with a Scandal

Campus rape is an unfortunate hot topic plaguing society. In Frank Winter's courageous drama Student Body, a group of students are brought together to collectively decide how to handle the recent video that has surfaced documenting a horrid drunken incidence at a party.
Winter's biting play follows a group of friends that battle morality after discovering a video from a party was filmed of a young man raping an unconscious girl. Through ferocious debates and unsettling truths coming to light, Student Body traps the characters, and audience, in a struggle of right and wrong. Student Body is a mix of Twelve Angry Men and "How to Get Away With Murder". Winter's script offers a captivating look into a world many are afraid to discuss. It may not expose anything new but it certainly has a strong approach. Winters expertly provides both sides of the debate to be heard equally. Where he sits on the subject is hidden, allowing the story to develop naturally. The only real struggle Winters runs into is the amount of voices to track. There are certainly key players in this story but some background players either needed to be beefed up or eliminated. With their arcs not significant to the overall picture, they seem to just be necessary for the random interjection. With many of the characters having little or menial stakes in bringing the video to authorities, finding a way to heighten the stakes will significantly build the dramatic tension. Even altering the ending with perhaps Daisy leaving with the unaffected memory card could be a suitable and more rewarding ending as opposed to a neatly tied bow. Of those with worth, the backstory and friendship between Daisy and April could be sharpened even further. Daisy is the outsider of the group but her presence and need to be the voice of reason for April would be interesting to explore.
photo by Hunter Canning
For fans of the Shonda Rhimes drama "How To Get Away With Murder", you couldn't help but make comparisons with Winters’ own character to the Keating 6 and friends. Green haired outsider  Daisy fit the Rebecca mold. Played by Mariette Strauss, Daisy was the voice of reason for the majority of the drama. When her will was tested, Strauss' vulnerability came through in striking fashion. Within the group, Alesandra Nahodil s Liz took the role of prime opposition. Pitted against Daisy, Nahodil was a strong fighter, even battling her familiar connections that could be destroyed if the video came out. Despite a small arc until later in the play, Daniela Rivera as Lucy was exceptional. Rivera’s Lucy was strong and determined, owning responsibility. With certain characters' involvement being a bit predictable, Student Body was a fantastic character study. Winters makes it easy for you to predict what’s to come allowing you to key into reactions and body language of certain characters. For the majority of the play, you knew somehow Rob was a key player in the night’s events so watching Tommy Bernardi when he was participating or actively listening was mesmerizing. Bernardi not only created a well-rounded and affable character, but he mastered the art of body language. Bernardi tapped into the character so well that his reactions to accusations and revelations were more telling than the dialogue he was given. Bernardi’s performance is extraordinary. He's one to keep an eye on in this play and beyond.
Michelle Tattenbaum’s direction was simple yet effective. The set created by Jerad Schomer was a work in progress set of wood and construction tools for a school play. But in the middle of the stage was a scenic piece that allowed a divide. As on point as it may be, Tattenbaum’s game of take a side was striking. She staged the play in a way that once you discovered the rules of the debate, playing with the extremes of the space and the ability to be or not be seen, it allowed the story to come alive in a new way. What could merely be an acting exercise provided something noteworthy. Winters script takes note of the tools and dangers on stage and Tattenbaum uses them as something you would assume is foreshadowing. Perhaps layering in moments that these items are approached again could aid to the heightening of the play’s stakes. A little more fear and danger could go a long way.
Student Body is something so fascinating that it may intrigue you to attend a second time just to key into individual performances with the knowledge of what will happen. The discussion of campus rape cases is sadly a topic that will not see an ending anytime soon so this psychological drama could not have arrived at a more perfect time.