Stage production makes lasting impression

By Russell Zazueta

After the cast performed an enchanting pre-show in the hallway, throngs of Elans entered the Black Box Theatre for “The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail.”

Director Kelly Hogan executed a wonderful interpretation of the original 1970 two-act play by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee.

Sailing—Henry David Thoreau, played by Evan Garcia, takes Ellen, played by Kathleen Nunez, on a boat ride in East Los Angeles College’s production of “The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail” which premiered last Friday at the Black Box Theatre. CN/JESUS FIGUEROA
Sailing—Henry David Thoreau, played by Evan Garcia, takes Ellen, played by Kathleen Nunez, on a boat ride in East Los Angeles College’s production of “The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail” which premiered last Friday at the Black Box Theatre. CN/JESUS FIGUEROA

The play takes place in 1846 Concord, Mass., when people were reluctant to question religion and politics for fear of being charged with blasphemy and treason.

Evan Garcia’s portrayal of Henry David Thoreau had the audience riveted to their seats throughout the performance.

Garcia’s passionate acting and emotional stage antics had the audience wrapped around his finger.

He generated countless moments of humor and unforgettable, heart-felt moments of somberness that caused eyes to water.

Garcia brilliantly performed gut-wrenching scenes of Thoreau’s never-ending battle with righteous indignation and loneliness.

The audience received a taste of the prejudice towards freethinkers in those days. To the left of the stage, two dingy bunks, minus a set of bars, represented a jail cell.

On the opposite side, a desk belonging to Ralph Waldo Emerson, played by Samuel Solorio, shared the stage for a scene inside his home.

Perhaps the most important element that brought the show to life was the monitor screen looming behind the stage that illuminated different environmental backdrops to prompt scene change.

In one of the most gripping and diabolical moments of the show, the backdrop changed red and supported an image of what looked like a burned down town. It was joined by a faint blanket of red stage lighting to simulate a nightmarish dream Thoreau was experiencing.

There were many scenes plotted for the audience to wonder what life would be like if transcendentalism was incorporated into their daily lives.

Deacon Ball, played by Miguel Carachure, did an excellent job of portraying an uptight, pretentious snob that everybody in the audience wanted to smack for being patronizing and pompous to Thoreau.

Ball’s fear of Thoreau’s unorthodox nature prohibited him from understanding Thoreau’s wit. As a result, he thwarted Thoreau any chance he had in the name of his religion and political beliefs.

Ellen, performed by Kathleen Nunez, played an older sibling of one of Thoreau’s students.

She was sent by her father, who antagonized Thoreau to pull her brother out from his classroom before Thoreau’s teachings could corrupt him further.

Hogan made a stylistic choice to stray from continuing scenes in chronological order.

Instead, the sequence of events leading up to the day of Thoreau’s imprisonment were scrambled with flashbacks of Thoreau’s earlier life and divided by jail scenes in the future.

A slew of vests, bow ties and elegant dresses came together center stage into a clothesline formation to bow for an audience that rumbled the theater with a  frantic salvo.

“The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail” is a remarkable play for any Elans fascinated by individualist anarchism and nonviolent resistance.

Ticket are $15 at the door, $10 general and $7 with an ASU discount available in P2-101.

They can also be purchased online at www.elac.edu under Upcoming Events.

Showings will continue through March 30.

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