Bonn Transforms Into ‘Grand Room’
Published: Sunday, November 4, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 19:01
This weekend, the Bonn Theatre hosted The Grand Room, the first ever student-written musical to be performed at BC, composed by Patrick Lazour (A&S ‘13) and his brother Daniel. Set in Cape Cod during the 1930s, the musical is centered upon a love triangle between the protagonist Beatrice and two potential men: her fiance Jules, who represents an escape from the shallow, materialistic world in which she lives, and Walter, her cousin, with whom she had a young romance. Beatrice is stuck between the potentiality of her future life and the incestuous love affair that keeps holding her back.
Clearly, this tense love triangle mixes with some controversial, scandalous issues of The Grand Room, which include the opening scene of a Virginia Woolf-style attempted suicide, the loss of love, depression and the “labeling” of mental illness or disturbance, incest, an ambiguously discussed abortion, and the shallow, aesthetic world of the rich—perfectly summed up with one of the opening lines, “don’t let the neighbors see,” making the pulse of the musical’s story a beautiful drama. One of The Grand Room’s strengths, however, was its ability to balance this dense drama with striking comedy. High-tension scenes are frequently juxtaposed against cheery songs that speak to the artificial lightness of the society and times. The majority of the musical’s laughs came from Beatrice’s parents, the over-the-top ridiculous and rich Abilene and Liam Aines, played by Tory Berner, A&S ’14, and Joseph Manning, A&S ’14. The couple’s hilarious antics and melodramatic attitudes made for a wonderful contrast from the darker, more serious issues of the play. Berner and Manning had wonderful chemistry and displayed natural body language and acting as their larger-than-life character counterparts. The scene that truly displayed their acting ease, natural banter, and great energy was their discussion, and singing, of Walter’s “condition” with Dr. Charles Parker.
Sarah Mass, A&S ’15, portrayed Beatrice Aines to near perfection. Her wonderful voice was first heard during “First of the Month of July,” a song discussing the excitement for her upcoming wedding to Jules, complete with some natural choreography reminiscent of a Disney princess tune. The musical did a wonderful job setting up the tension between Beatrice and Walter, played by Billy McEntee, A&S ’14, right away, throwing the audience into a turbulent, unsettling relationship. Yet it effectively hinted at something below the surface before the truth of their love affair was actually unveiled. Love-struck Walter’s first piece, “Black And White,” is a tragic telling of a love that has gone away, and was a great choice for the opening song. Jules, played by Joe Meade, A&S ’15, was a suave, smooth-talking character who had a natural stage presence. As the play progressed, a depth to his character was eventually revealed through the discovery that his father had pressured him into his engagement to Beatrice, suddenly creating a sympathy for him that was not present in the first act.
One of the musical’s best scenes was the climax of Walter’s staged attempted rape of Beatrice after she seduced him. What made this scene even more dramatic was the sudden sound of the doorbell—the neighbors heard the commotion and all of a sudden the gravity of the attempted rape was forgotten in order to appease the neighbors, showing the intrusion of society.
The music was wonderful, and the emotive lyrics were striking. The musical motif of the constantly present piano and violin accompaniments was a beautiful touch to the score. The score also came back to the two aforementioned songs at the end of the piece during the musical’s denoument, except “First of the Month of July” was cleverly changed to “Fourth of the Month of July” once Jules left Beatrice and their wedding was called off.
The set of The Grand Room was necessarily intricate. The lavish living room setting, complete with French doors and glass brandy bottles while hinting at period piece furniture, boasted a strikingly light atmosphere that seemed unique to the typically darker, minimalist sets of Bonn Theatre performances. This summer getaway home ambiance perfectly accentuated the overall mood of the play’s setting. The costumes, while not necessarily a central component of the musical (except for Beatrice’s perfectly striking red silk dress during a crucial scene), subtly amplified the tone as well. The men’s stately suits and the women’s simply silhouetted dresses fit perfectly with the period piece. One smaller aspect that did not go unnoticed was the soothing sound of waves and seagulls in the background during the absence of music and the occasionally changing lighting colors behind the living room’s windows, hinting at red and pink sunsets, dark blue nights, and bursts of fireworks.
With Beatrice and Walter’s seemingly happy reunion at the end of the play, the audience was left wondering whether the love story now reconnecting these two volatile characters had been reconciled or doomed. True art leaves people thinking, wondering, and guessing, and that is what The Grand Room accomplished with its poignant closing scene.