Running, jumping and dancing
Banquet!, "A Feast of Outrageous Theater, Unexpected Entertainment and Unnatural Acts," proved to be exactly that in a wildly entertaining and enjoyable production which opened on Wednesday night in Center Theater in the Hopkins Center.
With a cast of almost 40 students running, jumping, dancing, and doing just about everything imaginable on stage, Banquet! moves from subtle satire to uproarious farce, hardly giving the audience a chance to catch its breath.
A production concept of Drama Department Chair Mara B. Sabinson, Banquet! is an arrangement of almost 30 vignettes loosely drawn from a book by Roger Shattuck.
Scenes include excerpts from writings of Gertrude Stein, Guillaume Appolinaire, and Bertold Brecht and represent the avant-garde drive of Dadaism, Futurism, and Surrealism in rejecting contemporary artistic and social conventions.
Various cabaret and classical dance selections beautifully accompanied with music from George Gershwin and Eric Satie provided a soothing and transporting counterpart to the often demanding underlying themes of the production.
Director and drama professor Sam Abel has put together a force of extremely talented young actors in Banquet!, who successfully jump from sardonic comedy to surreal expression, keeping the audience captivated and always on the verge of laughter.
Without a weak link in the student cast of actors and dancers, the Dartmouth audience is fortunate to enjoy repeated exposure to the fine-tuned voice and theatrics of Brent Schindele '93. Relative newcomer to the Dartmouth stage Jon Meyers '96 also illustrated tremendous versatility and dramatic ability in his fish-net stocking rendition of Marlene Dietrich, among other scenes.
Perhaps one of the most unexpected surprises of the evening, (and believe me there were a lot of unexpected surprises), was the entrance of the first string of the Dartmouth football team, Matt Brzica '93, Andy MacDonald '93, Jim McGeehan '94, and Ed Urbano '93.
Donned in formal attire in one scene and dancing and jumping in perfect time with semi-professional dancers under the direction of Pepe DeChiazza, these former heavyweight champions of the athletic field throw away their jerseys and jock straps for tunics and tutus, pirouetting and plieing like true artists.
Banquet! is a true feast for the eyes, ears, and the funny bone. The show illustrates a tremendous effort on the part of all the cast and especially the director in bringing everything together and maintaining Dartmouth's high level of theater and comedy.
Banquet! plays tonight, and Wednesday through Saturday next week.