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CWRU/CPH MFA students excel in IDentity THEFT, devised theatre

Roy Berko

(Member, American Theatre Critics Association, Cleveland Critics Circle)

It is the purpose of the Case Western Reserve University/Cleveland Play House MFA Acting Program to give the students a chance to work with America’s leading theatre artists, appear on a professional stage, and, during their last year, journey to New York to showcase their talents.  The class of 2014 is about halfway through their experience.  Again, in IDentity THEFT, SEVEN LIVES FILTERED THROUGH THE IDEAS OF AUGUST STRINDBERG, the members of this class provide quality performances.

The group’s previous productions, THE MISANTHROPE and IN ARABIA WE’D ALL BE KINGS, were both outstanding.  Individual members have also proven themselves to be excellent as they appeared in Cleveland Play House main stage productions.

IDentity THEFT is a perfect vehicle to highlight each performer and his/her unique talents.  The play is not an authored script, but is devised theater which encourages collaborative creation, using spoken dialogue, poetry, mime, music, and dance as conceived by the director, writers and performers.  The process involves selecting a theme and then extracting ideas from that central axis.

As the vignettes unfold, each of the seven members of the unit blend their own real and fictional experiences to relate a mini-tale in the tradition of August Strindberg.  Strindberg, the father of Swedish realistic writing, was a writer who drew on his personal experiences to create natural melodramas and naturalistic tragedies.  Like fellow Scandinavian, Henrik Ibsen, and French writer, Emile Zola, he stressed the real.  He was less interested in the format of the play, not often following the unwritten format rule of a beginning, middle and conclusion, but rather a depiction that often did not include exposition, and often just suddenly ended with no resolution or moral.  He dramatized the workings of the unconscious.

IDentity THEFT examines identities and how life often steals or hides who we are.  Sometimes a person is unaware of her/his motivations, as heredity and environment meld to make an indescribable “me.”  As with Strindberg, who often was known to levitate between reality and psychotic, each of the vignettes opened the characters to unknown push and pull forces and logical and illogical actions.

Therese Anderberg, Bernard Bygott, Drew Derek, TJ Gainley, Christa Hinckley, Sarah Kinsey and Stephen Spencer exposed the real, the unreal, the imagined and the unimaginable as they told about their selves and themselves.

CAPSULE JUDGMENT: IDentity THEFT, SEVEN LIVES FILTERED THROUGH THE IDEAS OF AUGUST STRINDBERG, is fascinating theatre and gave additional proof of the quality of the CWRU/CPH MFA Acting Programs’ class of 2014,

IDentity THEFT runs through March 9, 2013 at the Helen Rosenfeld Lewis Bialosky Lab Theatre (The Helen) on the lower level of CPH’s Allen Theatre.  For tickets call 216-241-6000 or go to