Theatre Fairfield’s latest creation, “The Shadow Box,” showed Wednesday Oct. 25 through Sunday, Oct. 29 in the Wein Experimental Black Box Theatre at the Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts. The playwright, Michael Christofer, won a Pulitzer Prize for this piece.

“The Shadow Box” featured Theatre Fairfield regulars Tess Brown ’07, TonyDaCosta ’08, Kelly Henn ’07, Tim King ’08, Colleen Kennedy ’09, Liz Krane ’07, Jared Mezzocchi ’07, Jonathan Perez ’07 and Jodie Pfau ’07. The cast was small and intimate.

Theatre Fairfield is known for taking on “underground” drama, as they did in the past with “The Laramie Project” in 2003 and “Dead Man Walking” in 2005.

Written in the mid 1970s, “The Shadow Box” focuses on the lives of three families who are living in hospice care. Within the families, patients struggle with terminal illnesses. Family members try to provide solace, while the patients reflect on their lives and how their deaths will affect their family.

It emphasizes a process of grieving and dying and we see these five stages: anger, denial, depression, bargaining and acceptance. By the end of the play, the characters obtain a greater understanding of how to face death.

The first family introduced could be considered the most conventional. Joe, played by Perez, a working class husband and father, is joined at the cottage by his wife Maggie, played by Krane, and his son Stephen, played by DaCosta. Maggie is in denial of Joe’s impending death and is afraid to enter the cottage. Their 14-year-old son Stephen has not yet been told of his father’s terminal condition.

The second family consists of Brian, a terminally ill man played by Mezzocchi; Mark, his lover, played by King; and Beverly, Brian’s wild and eccentric ex-wife who comes to visit them, played by Henn.

The third family is a feisty, wheelchair-bound mother, Felicity, and her dutiful daughter, Agnes. An off-stage character, “the interviewer,” interrupts various scenes, offering insight into the various characters through questioning.

I was unsure what to expect as I walked into the dark maze of walls in the black box theatre. I was intrigued as soon as I saw the set, which resembled the inside of a woodsy, retro cottage. There was certainly ambience provided by the sounds of birds chirping over the noises of an anxious audience. One thing that caught the eyes was the choice of lighting.

My companion to the show, Brianna Cohoon ’10, mentioned, “the lighting is so natural, like it’s coming from a window,” as we waited for the show to begin.

The show commenced with a confessional, which evolves to be an outlet of emotions for the many unique characters in the play.

Brian, a homosexual intellectual man with a terminal illness, expresses how he felt someone should have warned them sooner that life doesn’t last forever. Brian expresses how only “on the way out” does one come to appreciate what they have and come to know what is important.

So yes, the play is depressing, but it is much more than that. It is supposed to reveal that, although death is something we’d all like to ignore, it is a part of life that we must all come to accept.

The style of the show is very intimate and real. It felt as if I was sitting in the room with the characters. Black Box Theatre, a relatively newer style of theatre, allows this type of intimacy and actor-audience interaction to occur.

The actors were all fascinated by the intricate setup of the play and found the message to be powerful to them.

Jonathan Perez expressed how, although it was challenging to play a terminally ill person, he was able to relate with his own character Joe, a terminally ill man.

“It’s a play about life and relationships… and human beings just like you and me,” Perez said.

It could be seen that much emotional work went into this production. The actors joked about how after attending rehearsal they felt depressed. But they too came to recognize that the play is an affirmation of life.

Students had much to say about the performance. Many were perturbed by the abrupt ending, which didn’t provide much closure of the stories. “The ending just dropped,” said Gabrielle Giuliano ’10.

Many students were unaware that the play would be so dreary and morbid.

“It was depressing, but very realistic. I was impressed,” said Lisa Arduini ’10.

The play certainly touched the heart. The excellent acting and intimacy provided not only a performance to enjoy, but also a lesson about life to learn.

“The Shadow Box” illustrates that, where there is sadness and darkness, there is always hope.

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