“Spark” brings the spark to the stage

WFU Theatre’s first show of the year is a tale of three sisters and presents the impacts of PTSD on relationships.

On Sept. 23, the Wake Forest theatre department’s production of “Spark” opened for a night filled with emotion, beautiful scenery and exquisite acting. Written by Caridad Svich and directed by Sharon Andrews and student co-director Erin Farmer, “Spark” revolves around three sisters, Evelyn, Lexie and Ali, and their relationship with one another.

Set in modern day, rural North Carolina, “Spark” explores the lives of war veterans after their return home, forcing audience members to examine the Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) of veterans that is often swept under the rug.

Immediately after entering the theater, one is entranced by the work done by the scenic, lighting and costume designer, Rob Eastman-Mullins. Audience members are drawn into the beautiful sunset scene created by the lights, enchanted by the wooden house built on stage and mesmerized by the gorgeous paper lanterns hanging from the branches of trees.

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Willis Landon steps out on stage to perform a folk-style piece composed by John Holley-Reid. Landon’s appearances between points in the show with live, passionate tunes provide fluidity between set changes and often emphasize dramatic points in the show, a very tasteful decision.

“Spark” opens with Evelyn, played by senior Justice von Maur, setting the table for a party, due to Lexie’s, played by sophomore Anne Peyton Brothers, return from the war.

Audience members infer a sense of closeness between the sisters that is quickly deterred by the appearance of Ali, the youngest sister, played by sophomore Lillie Burrow.

Evelyn and Ali begin to argue, thinking they each know what their sister would like when she returns after five years in the war. Ali, who is closer with Lexie than Evelyn, insists there be beer for their sister’s return, but Evelyn insists upon a home-cooked meal, complete with pie and candles.

The cast’s chemistry, even in the first few moments of the show, provides a foil between the clashing personalities of the characters and the cohesion of the cast.

It turns out that Lexie would rather head to bed than socialize with her sisters at all. This event hints at Lexie’s PTSD, which recurs throughout the piece.

The characters are developed through emotional, and often surprising, acting by Maur, Brothers and Burrow.

Monologues by Brothers are woven throughout the piece, with many instances of screaming and outcries of raw emotion.Through her struggles and connections with other characters, Lexie is finally able to be comforted and is able to enjoy the meal. After not being able to eat or sleep after her return from the war, she can finally begin to fill the emptiness, even with something as simplistic as food.

Even as a young student who has never had any experience with returning from a war, I was completely stunned with the talent and emotion that eminated from the cast. At times, the actors’ performances gave me chills.

It’s unbelievable that the cast is made of students. It seems that Brothers has been to war, Burrow wants to become the flyweight champion of the world, and Maur has to carry the world on her shoulders.

The passion and intensity with which the roles were played is sure to leave a lasting impact on the audience members.

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