On Oct. 27, the Wake Forest Theatre department debuted their production of the dystopian play Far Away, attracting a widespread audience of parents, locals and students to the Ring Theatre.
The horrifically disturbing piece of fiction was written by Caryl Churchill and directed by Cindy Gendrich, focusing on the slow progression of an authoritative and natural downfall. The world the characters live in follows guidelines for a continuation of a public execution; this acts as a display of capitalist motivation, alongside the idea that all animals and people live in a constant state of war involving new alliances daily.
Although the concept and themes of the play focus on fatalistic and paranoid feelings, the artistic designers work hard to show there is hope within the darkness. The work of scenic and lighting designer Rob Eastman-Mullins appeals to the audience with the display of a cottage kitchen and muted lights. These two depiction choices help bring the audience into a familiar childhood setting, thus making the viewers comfortable before details of chaos unfold.
As two of the leading cast members appear in the kitchen setting, the work of costume designer Mary Wayne-Thomas becomes evident. The child depiction of Joan, played by junior Anne Peyton Brothers, enters down the stairs in colorful pajamas, creating the image of a 10-year-old girl. Erin Farmer who plays Joan’s aunt Harper makes an appearance in a warn in sweater and a play dress she wears to clean the kitchen. Wayne-Thomas also added subtle choices with the mention of stepping in blood visible on Brothers’ foot when she begins to walk away. Since the play follows Joan and her co-worker Todd, played by Christian Carty, as adults who are milliners, many hats were created and worn throughout the production. The symbolism of colors and shapes played into Wayne-Thomas’ creative work and caught the eye of quick audience members.
Filled with quick scene changes and transformations of characters, Brothers and Carty work effortlessly to convey to the audience their growth as individuals and their blooming relationship, despite living in such a chaotic world. Those watching from any seat in the house will be left in awe of the development made possible in a show that runs less than an hour.
In the director’s note, Gendrich mentions that Far Away can be viewed as, “a piece of dystopian poetry. A warning. A meditation on things going wrong. It doesn’t look like our American dystopias.” This note is helpful in understanding how to go into Far Away as far as what to think and what background knowledge will fill in gaps.
Gaps of time are a prominent feature in Gendrich’s production. Farmer, Brothers and Carty strive to create conversation in moments of silence. That is what I believe makes this production so different from most. What goes unsaid almost speaks greater than the minutes that do contain dialogue. There is a significant focus on how war creates a toll on someone’s mindset, relationships, capability to trust, general stability and how to proceed with living his or her life.
Ria Matheson, a convict in the play, spoke about her ideas that she believes influenced the Wake Forest production.
“The direction team was digging into how there is so much of this play that is familiar to the modern experience,” Matheson said. “Wars against butterflies and silence seem ridiculous, until you think about the war on drugs or the war on terror. There’s an enemy, but it’s everywhere, and there are no clear sides.”
Matheson continued to mention what she and those involved in the production hope that the audience will have the chance to take away the following idea.
“We all have a part to play in preventing the world of Far Away from becoming our reality,” she said.
Overall the production’s cast and crew created an insight into a world dominated by corruption of government, nature and the brokenness of man. War has many effects on those it influences and disrupts, and it is not always easy to demonstrate how these aforementioned effects can destroy or strengthen a person.
Personally, I am glad I saw the production because of how much it relied on alternate uses of setting, silence and body language in place of wordy dialogue. It is unlike a production I have seen to date and creates a deep catharsis for the audience to experience.
The production of Far Away will continue to run this following weekend starting Thursday, Nov. 2 at 7:30 p.m., as well as running at the same time on Friday and Saturday night. A final performance will take place Sunday, Nov. 5, at 2 p.m.