Not All Love and Games

On Wednesday, November 12, the first performance of Brian Friel’s play, Lovers: Winners opened in Brehmer theater. The performance was the first of six. First-year Diandra Rivera and first-year Julio Chanelo played the main roles of Mag and Joe. In subsequent performances, junior Sarah Tiley and senior Eamon O’Rourke and first-year Lindsay Olsen and sophomore Robert Eaton respectively brought the parts of Mad and Joe to life. Eugene and Carol Marner, owners of a local theater in Franklin, New York, were cast as the narrators.

Lovers: Winners tells the story of two young Irish-Catholic lovers, Mag and Joe, soon to be married. Because Mag is pregnant, both she and Joe have been expelled from school. Together they face isolation from their peers and the prospect of a daunting adulthood. The play presents the two spending an afternoon together on a nearby hill where they eat lunch, study and intermittently discuss their future. Breaking into their conversation is a suspensful, foreboding narration.

The play ultimately concludes with a mystery: Mag and Joe are found drowned, face-down in shallow water. The audience is left to ponder how two young and vibrant people could have died such an unexpected death.

Underneath its fun dialogue and enigmatic conclusion, Friel’s drama expresses subtler themes. For the play’s director, Associate Professor of English and Director of University Theater Adrian Giurgea, the most apparent subtext of the performance was the generational disconnect faced by Mag and Joe.

“One theme is the generational conflict…what world do you inherit from earlier generations,” Giurgea explained about the show.

He added to this sentiment, stating that from the play, a sense emerges that the youth have to, “fight for every scrap, have to fend for themselves.”

The acting of the play successfully communicated the theme of generational conflict. Below the vitality of the two lovers’ interactions, there was an emerging tension: Though the two were in love, they subtlety expressed apprehension at the thought of their upcoming nuptials, which seemed forced upon them by the norms of their society. Amidst their jokes about what marriage would be like arose a fear about becoming adults.

From their adept performances, it was clear that the actors had poured a significant amount of time into their roles and the play.

According to Giurgea (who described the entire cast as having “tremendous dedication”), the actors dedicated roughly four to six hours a day, six days a week to the preparation of their play. The show was certainly a notable commitment for all involved.

The three different casts rehearsed separately, which allowed for the three different performances to deviate nicely from each other. The separation created varying purposes for each rendition of the play; Giurgea was pleased with the differentiations in each of the performances, calling them “a celebration of human uniqueness, specialness, individuality and differences.”

Despite the differences between each cast, the underlying themes and questions created and posed by Friel remained consistently present. The actors all communicated a vibrant youth that made their circumstances and untimely deaths seem especially painful to the audience.

On learning the sad outcome of Mag and Joe’s future, one was immediately left with a sense of ambiguity over the mystery that shrouded the death of such optimistic and young lovers: this cryptic ending could have been unsatisfying, but actually felt suitable as it mirrored the opaqueness of the character’s emotions toward being cast into the world of adulthood.