Updated: Aug 24, 2019
The suspension of disbelief is when you lose yourself because you become immersed as you watch a performance. Sometimes it is hard to achieve, especially when you can infer about the mechanics behind a theatre show. However, I had no problem losing myself in Keep This for Your Records by Anna Abhau Elliot.
USC Upstate’s 2019 London Company put on the show’s world premiere last Friday 6/21/19 at the West Main Co-Op. The performance was part of the first ever Spartanburg Fringe Festival.
You can tell from the opening scene that the show will be different from anything else you’ve ever seen on stage. The wit and intelligence in Elliot’s writing are razor-sharp. Lee Neibert’s directing brings out the best in the immensely talented group of USC Upstate students, theatre majors and minors alike. The comedic timing between pair of actors Jenna Lawson and Zachary Urban leaves no room for a spare second. That is how in sync the pair is as they interrogate Kat Powell’s character, Geraldine.
This play is perfectly cast, full of excellent pairs between its members. Jordan Montemayor and John Gibbs shine as workers in a seemingly hum-drum office space, writing codes so random they are stressful.
Kat Powell and Marshall Branham share numerous tender moments as Geraldine and Gerald. The friendship they portray feels authentic, a testament to their acting, Elliot’s writing, and professor Lee Neibert’s ability to bring an ensemble out of a group. The romantic connection between Powell’s Geraldine and McCray Earls’ portrayal of Dot is presented efficiently without them even exchanging words. You can feel the characters’ chemistry, and the kindness Earls emits as Dot, just by looking at the pair sit together on a couch, drinking tea.
The show is about the Manhattan Project, which you may think wouldn’t work for a comedy like this one, but it feels practically perfect. Elliot’s writing unfolds seamlessly and with lots of laughs, to the point where it seems she makes storytelling seem effortless when it is truly anything but. This is especially true of a historically accurate piece such as this. This production has clearly been researched with much time and care, and it shows in the high quality of the writing.
Zach Urban has wonderful comedic timing, as always, as Joey, who fruitlessly asks the disinterested Geraldine out again and again.
Eric Makowski is an excellent foil to Urban’s character as the power dynamics in the office shift. All the actors minus Gibbs and Montemayor, work in the same stuffy office where lining up at the hot Coca-Cola fountain is the highlight of the day.
This show presents, in my opinion, the best ensemble work that Upstate theatre has to offer. However, you shouldn’t simply take my word for it. USC Upstate Theatre is putting the show on for free 6/28/19 at 8:00 PM at USC Upstate before they take the show to London!
The show is stage managed by Alyssia Chaplin. Kelly Crisp serves as the show’s technical director. Barry Whitfield is the faculty technical advisor.
Pictures in this article credited to Sandy Staggs. http://spartanburgfringefestival.com/