It is thought-provoking, entertaining and theatrically exciting. The interpretation is entirely up to you: it is what you make of it. It is a night full of Beckett and Yeats’ theatrical masterpieces. This weekend, University Theater is presenting three short, but monumental plays to the Colgate community: Come and Go, Catastrophe and Cathleen ni Houlihan. This production flourishes under the meticulous care of director and Christian A. Johnson Endeavor Foundation Artist-in-Residence in the Department of English and University Theater David Epstein. Epstein is a professional playwright and seasoned veteran in the theatrical world, bringing his vast knowledge to the Colgate campus. He successfully directed last year’s University Theater production and accepted this year’s production with just as much enthusiasm. “I chose these plays because they are inescapable to me. Every time I put them aside, they keep coming back to me for different reasons,” commented Epstein. The two short Samuel Beckett plays, Catastrophe and Come and Go are presentational, visually dynamic and verbally comic in a most astringent, subtle style that is uniquely Beckett’s. The W.B. Yeats play, Cathleen ni Houlihan, is in direct stylistic contrast. While it appears a realistic narrative, it becomes a lyrical, even mystical piece that expands beyond our expectations.”I think that these plays are right for the Colgate community. The best theater doesn’t give you answers and these plays don’t – but hopefully they’ll make you think and come back,” said Epstein. All three plays are intellectually provocative, theatrically potent and evince universal appeal. This dramatic trio has surprisingly strong political and social references that are relevant to society today. These plays encompass everything from young men going off to war amidst political turmoil, to sexual power relationships, to assessing the social confines to which women are regularly submitted. Certainly this production will appeal to the Colgate community. Under the direction of a professional playwright and director, it seems logical that the rest of the production team has professional experience as well. This production has the unique privilege of showcasing the work of a renowned professional lighting designer, Dawn Chiang. Having worked on and off-Broadway, Chiang is well-known for the subtlety, beauty and intelligence of her lighting – this certainly comes through in this production. Associate Professor of English and Scenic Designer Marjorie Bradley Kellogg designs nearly all of the sets for Colgate Theater productions and is responsible for the brilliant set in this production as well, which captures both Beckett’s minimalism and Yeats’ mystical reality. The music composition and sound design is by senior Greg Crider and senior Erin Sutton designed the costumes. Through this unique collaboration of students and professionals, we are reminded of the legacy left by Jacques Levy here at Colgate, the former director of the Theater Program. “This is what the spirit of Jacques Levy is about, it’s about bringing professionals to work with students. This play is very much in memory of Jacques,” remarks Epstein. Beckett’s abstract play Come and Go, is the first to confront the audience. Three women, adorned in colorful 19th century attire, are set against a minimalist black set with nothing but a gloomy black trellis hanging behind them for ornamentation. Vi (first-year Alice Winslow), Flo (senior Rebecca Spiro) and Ru (senior Nora McGeough) sit as statues in elongated silences, sparsely conversing about the way things once were. The play is short, but dense, and is extremely powerful. Epstein chose to present this play with prolonged silences because “silences can take you to all sorts of rich places.” According to McGeough, “this play is a philosophical piece of art. Everyone will interpret it differently, but I see it as women’s rights and the rings that restrain women in marriage.” Whatever your interpretation may be, Beckett’s play beautifully captures both human loneliness as well as companionship, ending with a simple gesture of the three women joining hands. Come and Go transitions smoothly, both mentally and physically, into Beckett’s next play, Catastrophe. The set still remains minimalist and black, the lighting only delicately shifted and the trellis that had been hanging above the three women in Come and Go is hoisted up to a 90-degree angle, as if a guillotine, ominously waiting to plunge on it’s next unsuspecting victim. This sets the tone. Catastrophe features a theater director, ‘D,’ played by sophomore Simon Bresler and his assistant, ‘A,’ played by Spiro, who are arranging an actor ‘P,’ played by senior Drew Beitz who stands on a black pedestal, submitting to their direction. The director wears a fur coat and a matching fur hat, which suits his pompous air, while his assistant sports simple white overalls that emphasize her humility and alacrity to please him. The actor remains silent throughout the play, despite the scrutiny of the director and his assistant. Their loaded interactions connote a type of subversive power struggle. Once again, the abstract nature of this play allows for any interpretation. For director Epstein, “Catastrophe is about the emergence of the democratic spirit and power relationships between men and women.”The final play featured in this production is Yeats’ Cathleen ni Houlihan. The play is set in a peasant cottage in the Irish countryside on August 22, 1798, the exact date when French troops came to support the Irish in their revolution against England. However, this overtly politicized setting is never featured in the play; we only hear unexplained commotion coming from offstage. The play opens in the no-frills cottage on an intimate family scene: preparation for the marriage of the eldest son, Michael Gillane, played by senior Jon Barinholtz to Delia Cahelm, played by Winslow. Peter, Michael’s father (Bresler) and Bridget, Michael’s mother (McGeough) are deliberating over the financial benefits of the marriage, while Michael enters with the dowry in his hand. An Old Woman (Spiro) saunters up the path to their cottage asking for shelter. As soon as she enters their stable home, she turns everything upside down, transfixing the entire family with her lyrical words and mystical behavior – especially Michael. As she continues to poetically rant, it becomes clear that she is not just an old woman, but something much more. The woman hypnotizes Michael with her melodic words and tells him he should devote himself to helping her evict the “strangers in the house” who have stolen her “four beautiful green fields.” When she leaves, Michael immediately runs after her. When the Gillanes’ younger son, Patrick, returns he tells his family that he saw the Old Woman on the road, but that she had transformed into a young lady “with the walk of a queen.” It becomes clear that the Old Woman is no ordinary woman, but Cathleen ni Houlihan, the living spirit of Ireland. Her “four beautiful green fields” are actually the four provinces of Ireland and the “strangers in the house” are the British usurpers. “This show is one that will make you think. It’s a very confusing show, it certainly is not an easy show, but its fun: it’s what theater is all about.” said Spiro, who is featured in all three performances. Bresler added: “The great thing about surreal theater is that you have to strive to make some meaning of it. What students take away from these shows is uniquely their own.”Come and Go, Catastrophe and Cathleen ni Houlihan will be playing in Brehmer Theater at the Dana Arts Center on March 3-5 at 8:00 p.m. and March 5 at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are free for students and general admission is $3. For ticket information call: (315) 228-7641.