July 14, 2020
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The mainstage fall play during Family Weekend is the dramatic comedy Moonchildren by Michael Weller, about a group of college students who maneuver political and personal conflict in the Vietnam War era.
Performances will be in Bolton Theater at 8 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 15; 8:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 16; and 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 17.
The play, presented by the Kenyon College Dance and Drama Club, is set in 1965 and examines the characters’ quest for connection in an uncertain time.
Director Ben Viccellio ’98, assistant professor of drama, said he first read Moonchildren as a Kenyon student. “It grabbed me, and it’s been gamboling around my brainpan ever since,” he said.
The characters’ phase of life matches that of the actors. “Moonchildren provides our students a rare opportunity to tackle age-appropriate roles,” Viccellio said.
Despite the similar ages, the actors said putting themselves in Vietnam War-era America was a challenge, coupled with other difficult subject matter of protests, bigotry, suicide and cancer.
Mark Ashin ’18, of Arlington, Virginia, plays Dick, a quieter student who is standoffish toward his apartment mates. He said the cast had to fathom the implications of the war.
“Stuff is happening like Syria, a lot of conflict is occurring, but nothing like Vietnam,” Ashin said. “It’s so weird to think that we would be studying and doing all these things, but when we left (college) we would be going to war.”
Tristan Biber ’17, of Cologny, Switzerland, plays an uncle to one of the central characters and has to portray the duality of the uncle’s desire to seem put-together while sneaking sips of whiskey from a flask.
The uncle speaks frankly, and Biber said he works to strike the right amount of gravity. “There’s a lot of covering up with emotions and laughter of the more difficult topics,” he said. “My character’s one of the very few who doesn’t really cover it up that much, or at least he’s not able to.”
While the play deals with heavy matters, it brims with snappy comedic moments. Cassidy Jones ’17, of Los Angeles, plays the role of bubbly flowerchild Shelly and said those bits of humor drive the show. “The language is constantly switching from one thing to another. It’s a lot of banter, so you have to constantly be on your toes about what is supposed to be funny, what’s a bit, what’s actual truth,” she said.
Joseph Randles ’16, of Newton, Massachusetts, portrays Mike, half of a duo who provide much of the comic relief. Mike carries around a rubber chicken, and the play never explains why. Polishing the pacing of the show was difficult, he said. “But once we found it — boy, what a good time.”
Student tickets are $2, and general admission is $7.50. Visit the website for the current season for complete pricing information and box office hours.
– Elana Spivack ’17