Lost in Translation



Lauren Stern

Despite the intentional chaos and miscommunication onstage, I think everyone in the audience would agree that the Student Theater Production Translations, written by Brian Friel and directed by sophomore Cooper Sivara, was a slightly bizarre yet extremely entertaining experience. The audience was absolutely enthralled by the play and there was even talk about seeing the play all three times just to show support for the exceptional actors. The ensemble of rustic costumes, pastoral scenery, Irish folk music, interjections of the ancient Irish language and the perfect quaint setting in 20 Lawrence Hall gave this play an overwhelming sense of realism. The actors perfectly fit the roles they played, down to their very mannerisms, gestures and tone of voices.

This Irish tale about finding a proper home, language and heritage emerges as the citizens of Baile Beage are confronted with British officers who plan to change everything about their homeland. There is an immense communication gap between the two cultures, though, and thus the play spirals into one of misunderstanding, miscommunication and language barriers. Characters ramble in Latin, Greek, English and Gaelic but are unable to communicate properly with each other. The audience learns right away that language has the power to divide, as well to unite people.

Sivara successfully creates a state of disarray and ambiguity onstage. The British officers are unable to communicate with the Irishmen without the help of their translator Owen (junior Sam Daly). Here we see the problem of trying to translate one culture’s ideas into another culture’s language. As the British officer, Captain Lancey (first-year Adam Ashwell) describes the plan for constructing an English map of Ireland, Owen fails to truly convey what is going on to the citizens of Baile Beag.

Translations is unexpectedly hysterical. The play jumps back and forth between languages like the Tower of Babel, until everything comes crashing down and there are only body movements and facial expressions left to convey feelings. The scene where Maire (sophomore Chelsea Hoffman) and Lieutenant Yolland (senior Riley Croghan) struggle to understand each other so perfectly highlights how frustrating the lack of the ability to communicate truly is. After quite a steamy and romantic onstage kiss, Maire returns to Hugh (senior Xand Lourenco) and demands to learn English. Nonetheless, Maire feels guilty for her desire to learn English, but says it is necessary for her survival.

The characters in Translations reveal a great deal about human nature. Some characters in the play, such as Hugh, respond to change by pushing it away while others, such as Owen, claim that one should be able to adjust in order to survive. As a result, the audience is left to deal with the question, namely, how much should one change with the changing times?

Despite the hectic nature of most of the play, the beginning of the play calmly addresses this question as it highlights the importance of holding onto things that make one feel at home. This simple yet profound idea can be applied to life in general. As things slowly change and the world becomes a little more chaotic, it is important to hold onto some of the ideals and beliefs that existed in one’s past.

My only criticism of this play, therefore, is that it was a little more meaningful than what the typical Colgate student might be looking for on a weekend night. Nevertheless, this play certainly did not fail to entertain the audience nor did it leave everyone lost in translation.