Harper (Jolee Cohen) consoles her niece, Joan (Justine Cataneo), after Joan realizes the realities of the world they now live within. Photo by Caleb Conner.
UMBC’s Theatre Department is showcasing Studio 3’s production of “Far Away.” Directed by Abigail Funk and Leah White, “Far Away” is a collection of chaotic visions of the future. It suggests that the future will be characterized by eternal violence and undying fear.
The play is divided into three acts with three separate story lines. The first follows Joan, a young girl who, having seen her uncle cage and murder children, is shooed away by her mysterious, all-knowing Aunt Harper. In the second act, having grown, Joan learns of the corrupt hat industry with her coworker Todd. In the final act, this couple faces devastating war and seeks refuge from Aunt Harper.
This play was performed in the relatively small and fairly dark Black Box Theatre. The audience is physically close to the stage which gives them a sense of involvement and empathy. The physical closeness made it easier for the audience to emotionally relate to the characters.
On this small stage there were very few props, but each had multiple purposes. The simplicity and strict organization of the set paralleled the conclusion that life was simplest for Joan when she did not understand reality. In the third act the setting returns to Aunt Harper’s house, and all of the props were messily thrown around the stage. The disorder of the props mimicked the chaos of the devastating war scene.
The entire production was only an hour long, and it was amazing how much story and movement could fit in such a small amount of time. Part of this was due to the sound and lighting. The sound and lighting effects carried the movement between scenes.
The first half of the second act was lighthearted and romantic, so the lights were bright and reflected this mood. In the third act, there were sounds of bombs, gunshots, screaming, pounding and other sounds common in war. Additionally, for a few moments the lights were so dimmed, all you could sense was the distress of the characters.
The characters, although familiar, were untrustworthy and enigmatic. Even though the audience was there to witness and follow their stories throughout time, it was as though there were unsaid details crucial to the story. It was as if there were a secret hidden from the audience, and the insanity of not knowing contributed even more to the meaning of the play.
The play fed the audience the confusion and dismay of a dystopia. No citizen of a dystopia can explain why or exactly how the society became such a way. Once a society becomes subject to such tragedy, all its citizens can do is accept it and survive. This play was made to incite fear in the audience and convince them to doubt their surroundings, as well as change before their own society becomes suddenly plagued.
Studio 3’s production of “Far Away” scares the audience by showing them a society that isn’t too far away from our own. If nothing is done to prevent it, a dystopia will emerge almost as quickly as the confusion for how the world became so. “Far Away” will be presented from March 9 to 11 at various times in the Black Box Theatre in UMBC’s Performing Arts and Humanities Building. It is encouraged that students watch, then learn to doubt their own world.