University Theater production adds new dimension to the meaning of fun

By Cady Susswein

Fun by James Bosley and directed by Theadora Tolkin is University Theater’s first play of the fall quarter. It’s an intense melodrama about two troubled teenagers who develop an instant bond after meeting randomly at a bus stop. Hillary (Julia Bell) was raped by her father when she was an overdeveloped child, and Bonnie (Alexandra Ensign) is a pathological liar who claims to have been raped in her youth. Repressed loneliness unites them, but the girls could not be more different. Hillary distances herself from people, while Bonnie tries to make as many acquaintances as possible.

The two girls agree to leave their troubles behind them and live for fun. Their “fun” results in ambiguous intimacy with each other and the arbitrary killing of an innocent elderly woman. The girls are consequently sent to the juvenile detention center where the story takes place. Jane (Shaudy Danaye-Elmi), a psychiatrist and former victim of abuse, and John (Jonah Locke Meadows), a sleazy reporter, interview the girls as the story unfolds.

The play’s overall message is obvious: Bosley questions the true definition of “fun.” For Bonnie and Hillary, fun mostly involves physical contact and superficial connections, whether through cuddling or brutal murder. These girls are strangers to emotional intimacy. Although Bonnie says that she has had relationships, it is hard for the audience to believe her. Both girls crave physical attention, not loving relationships. When Bonnie and Hillary finally get physical with one another, they experience a brief but intense euphoria.

Theadora Tolkin interprets the abused and emotionally stunted characters to be a result of the media. The girls’ sense of fun is most likely influenced by the careless, entertaining way violence is portrayed in the media. To symbolize the media’s presence in these malleable teenagers’ lives, Tolkin uses televisions in her set. When the scenes change, the pictures on the TVs show the backdrop for that scene. As well as tying into the theme of the play, the TVs are aesthetically interesting and a great directorial stamp.

The actors suit their parts and work well together. Ensign’s onstage energy captures her character’s hyperactive insecurity, although her choppy movements sometimes distract from her words. Otherwise, her portrayal of Bonnie is believable and proficient. Bell, although seemingly uncomfortable with the required physical closeness of the sexually-charged scenes with her female co-star, is otherwise intense and focused. Danaye-Elmi is one of the strongest links in the play; her character’s facade of professionalism hides an insecure child as confused and lonely as the girls she is trying to help. Meadows, who plays a generally slimy character, is surprisingly likeable, but his character lacks distinction. Both he and Danaye-Elmi play strongly opinionated characters and have a great antagonistic chemistry on stage. Unfortunately, the play isn’t long enough for true character development.

Fun is definitely worth seeing. It challenges socially accepted norms of physical intimacy and fun, and analyzes the influence the media has over it all. It leaves the audience with a new perspective on the consequences of abusive relationships. You will leave feeling sympathy for the situations but not for the characters. As for the lighting, there aren’t any spectacular light shows, but it adequately reflects the intensity of the production. There’s no mood-setting music either, which the show could benefit from. Altogether, Fun is a well-rounded show, even if the characters aren’t.

Shows are Thursday, November 6 to Saturday, November 8 at 8:00 p.m. in the Third Floor Theater at the Reynolds Club.