Memorable performances by Santa Clara cast examined evils and complexities in times of genocide
THE SANTA CLARA
May 22, 2014
“Goodness,” the grim play by Michael Redhill, which focuses on genocide and prejudice, completed its week-long run in the Fess Parker Studio Theatre on Saturday, May 17.
The play tells the semi-autobiographical story of playwright and recent divorceé Michael, who takes a trip to Poland to uncover stories of relatives killed in World War II. He meets the elderly Althea, who tells him the history of the man who began the genocide of her people.
“Goodness” addresses many intense themes, including what leads a society to genocide, the power of testimony and the origins of hate and prejudice. The show never mentions a particular country of origin or an ethnic background for either the people killed in the genocide or those who exterminated them. This vagueness helps audiences connect with the play and evaluate their own prejudices and responsibilities as human beings.
“Goodness” also includes traditional songs and chants from around the world, sung by the cast themselves, which gives the show a universality beyond the characters’ stories.
The show featured only six actors, with two understudies. Many of the actors played multiple parts in the show. The cast as a whole remained onstage for the entirety of the story, each giving performances that were moving and inspirational.
“‘Goodness’ is so much more than a play,” said understudy Christy Chow. “It’s an intellectually stimulating and emotional experience which asks us to look not only around us, but at ourselves. Sometimes I think humans have the tendency to search for truths in an external world which they see as inherently negative and cruel. ‘Goodness’ reminds us that it’s just as important to search for the goodness within ourselves, others and humanity as a whole.”
In the second act, the character Mathias Todd ridicules Michael, criticizing him because his response to all the atrocities he discovers is to simply write a play. This declaration echoes the show’s greater social messages and a call to action.
“With today’s easy access to the media and world news, we hear about so many of the tragedies of the world and become desensitized,” said actor Gavin Mueller. “We start to see these occurrences as monotonous numbers and occurrences. ‘Goodness’ helps us look past that, focus on the essence of the event, and feel.”
“Goodness” emphasizes this need for feeling and emotional response in the face of cold facts and logic throughout the show. At the show’s climax, young Althea turns to Todd and cries, asking him how he feels. Such a simple line resonated in the minds and hearts of audiences, leaving a lasting effect as they exited the theatre.
The theatre and dance department’s next main stage production is the Tony Award-winning musical “In the Heights,” which opens in Mayer Theatre on May 30.