“Black Fly” soars beyond setbacks

By: Alex Spindler ~Arts & Entertainment Editor~

The regional premiere of Nick Gandiello’s modern drama “Black Fly Spring” made its home debut at the Gallagher Student Center Theatre to an audience that was both enthusiastic and intrigued.

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Nick Gandiello’s compelling four-character script contains limitless potential.

Set on a mountaintop resort in the Adirondacks, “Black Fly Spring” finds the dysfunctional couple of Lana (played by junior and Newswire Opinions and Editorials Editor Tatum Hunter) and George (played by sophomore Mac Blais) trying to relax and plan a memorial for Lana’s late sister, Sarah. Working with Sarah’s most acclaimed, international photos, Lana and George struggle to combat the demons of their past while moving forward past grief, heartbreak and detrimental secrets.

When a town local, Kip (played by first-year Annelise Moloney), and her daughter Ashley (played by junior Ellen Godbey during this performance) enter their lives, they learn more about the perils and pleasures of living – or in some cases, not living – in a global community consumed by tragedy. The roles played by these four actors demanded a sense of maturity not yet seen on the Xavier stage. These four actors took hold of this challenge and executed well-developed and complex performances.

Hunter especially stood out as the mentally and physically damaged Lana. Her frantic mannerisms, emotional build and willingness to push the barriers of comfort in front of a live audience enriched the nuances of a play filled to the brim with metaphors and symbolism.
Blais, though plateauing at certain emotional climaxes, complemented Hunter well with his equally tortured portrayal of George. Moloney delivered a fresh, more light-hearted approach to her role as Kip and also displayed a sense of sexual liberty obviously lacking in Lana and Geroge’s relationship. Although her character was onstage for only one scene, Godbey’s portrayal of Ashley was both intelligent and reserved.

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Sophomore Mac Blais (left) intensely argues with junior Tatum Hunter (right).

One of the most impressive facets of the production was the technical design. Positioned like a
semi-thrust stage, this cabin-like resort room had a large, white screen that projected landscape, but more interestingly, Sarah’s photos. These images coupled nicely with the stories told during the previous scene. Also, Brian Griffin’s sound design was simple and properly advanced the narrative. The constant “ticks” of the black flies, the ambiance of the wilderness and the gushing of faucets grounded a play firmly rooted in realism. Additionally, Gandiello’s script shows unlimited potential.

One line in particular stood out due to its depth when Lana claims, “There’s a world out there, there’s always a world.” The overarching dilemmas of the play revolve around tensions between cityraised and country-raised people and the dissonance between action and inaction to a world outside of one’s comfort zone. These topics and more are explored. The main issues with the show lie in the pacing. Though the exposition took some time getting off the ground, the conflict soon gained momentum, and it endured throughout the manageable, 95-minute production.

Certain scenes – specifically the second and fifth (and final) scene – lacked the same substance as the other three, and therefore, the plot dragged. Regardless, “Black Fly Spring” produces engaging material that may be rocky at certain instances, but works overall. The intricate design and mature performances aided a play that is both promising and likely to succeed sooner than expected.

Newswire Rating: