A Fine Line Between Heaven and Hell
By Nick Martinez/Photos by Christopher Stahelin
“Hell is other people,” the famous line from Jean Paul Sartre’s classic one act about three damned souls psychologically torturing each other, serves as the perfect coda for the play. Ironically enough, it also serves as the perfect antithesis to SFUAD’s current production.
Even though the show was opening on Feb. 15, senior Corbin Albaugh, the show’s director, graciously allowed me to sit in on their most recent rehearsal. My only knowledge of the play before hand was through brief summaries on the Internet and conversations I’ve had with Albaugh in previous days, so I was going in blind.
Albaugh called for his small crew to take their positions, because today they were going to run through the entire piece straight. Taking the stage first was junior transfer student Michael Phillip Thomas as the coward Crodeau.
“At the top of this play Crodeau built up this view in his mind that was really manly and macho, which you and I do everyday,” said Thomas. “Through this plays process you see him stripped of that, and he’s really this scared coward of a man that in every turn in life ran away.”
Thomas certainly played Crodeau in this way, as his acerbic monologues would not be out of place in a Brett Easton Ellis novel. Joining Thomas on stage later was sophomore Chloe Torblaa as the scheming Ines and freshmen Tristine Henderson as the seductress Estelle.
“The show is about three way dynamics and that’s kind of the way the world works,” said Torblaa about the show.
The threesome breezed through the show without any mishaps to my untrained eye, and the show climaxed with Torblaa’s character Ines delivering a gleefully psychotic rant to Thomas’s Crodeau.
“That’s why Ines is my favorite character, she’s just so blunt,” said Torblaa. “From the get-go she is not fucking around.”
Albaugh noted how vastly improved the show was getting from day to day, offering to let the cast leave early after he gave them their notes. This is when the group’s playful dynamic really shined.
A week or so before I visited rehearsal, I had sat down with Albaugh who was then still in early pre-production on the play. He had only had a handful of rehearsals completed, but made it clear he had no intention to be difficult to work with.
“The first thing I said to my actors when we first started rehearsal was ‘I’m going into this with a vision of the play, with an idea of what the play is about and I know what I want to accomplish with this,” said Albaugh. “That’s the objective, but in order to realize that there needs to be a dialogue with the actors and the director. If you’re forcing your actors to do a bunch of things that were never in their minds to begin with, they don’t feel like they’re creating. They feel like a robot having information punched into their back and kicked on stage.”
What Albaugh said played through my head as I watched the cast joke around even while getting absolutely everything they wanted accomplished.
Albaugh told Henderson she was moving her feet too much and said, “it’s OK to stand still, people stand still all the time. Look, I’m standing still right now.” The cast and crew laughed as Albaugh mimicked a caffeinated Henderson jogging in place. “This just looks weird.”
Albaugh’s notes continued in this way, layering each critique with a joke, and proving that work and play really can mix together.
“A huge part of this show is just connection with us three, even though we are each other’s torturer’s we have to work with each other off stage and make those discoveries,” said Henderson. “Keeping up that joking environment just makes it a more comfortable atmosphere.”
I can say without a doubt that hell has never been so comfortable.
Saturday, February 16 • 7:00 PM – 8:30 PM
Sunday, February 17 • 2:00 PM – 3:30 PM