Arts, On Campus

Original Play ‘Idawalley’ Displays Strength in Adversity Through Emotional Performances

A lighthouse off the coast of Newport, R.I. in the 1870s is the setting of Idawalley, written by Maggie Kearnan, BC ’14, and directed by Grace Cutler, MCAS ’24. 

A BC theatre department production, Idawalley ran in the Bonn Studio Theatre from Jan. 26 to Jan. 29

To open the play, two women burst through the door, holding a man who appears to have fallen into the sea. The man is Michael (Benjamin Burke, MCAS ’25), a farmhand originally from County Cork, Ireland, who jumped in the water to save a prize sheep. The two women are the Lewis sisters, Idawalley (Leah Temple Lang, LSEHD ’23) and Hattie (Ellie Falanga, MCAS ’23).

Idawalley, or Ida, as she prefers to be known, is a mythical figure—though stories of her are well known, she seldom leaves Lime Rock, the rock on which the lighthouse stands. After the death of her parents, she took on the role of keeper of the Rock. She is known throughout Newport for her bravery, though in personal relations she seems to be quite cynical and reticent. 

Hattie, on the other hand—although sick with lung issues—is full of joy and a passion for life that is evident in everything she says and does. Their brother, Rud (Jack Krukiel, LSEHD ’25), Captain William Wilson (Finn McGurn, MCAS ’26), and a young woman named Jenny Atwood (Maddie Rose Notarianni, MCAS ’23) all come in and out of the Lewis sisters’ lives—as does Michael—and all have baggage in their lives that culminate in the main theme of the play: hardship. 

“How do people live through hardship?” Cutler wrote in the director’s note in the program.

Some, like Ida, choose to live past it. Others, like her brother Rud, question the reason why she does this. Each of the characters chooses to cope with loss and hardship in a unique way, but rather than being pushed apart by their coping mechanisms, they are all united by their ties to the Rock. 

The Lewis sisters live in a simple house with plain furnishings and decoration. A cross hangs above the door, and a photo of a house, perhaps the very one in which the play is set, hangs on the wall. 

The furniture is functional, but it’s also clearly lived in. There are blankets covering the wooden chairs, giving the home a cozy feeling that protects against the harshness of the wind and water of the outside world. The sounds of the outside world only creep into Lime Rock when the door is open. As characters enter and leave the house, or when Ida tends to the light, the audience can hear the sounds of the ocean and the wind and the adoration of the fans who come to cheer for Ida. 

Otherwise, Lime Rock is a world unto itself.

The show’s actors are what made the story come to life. Temple Lang shined as Idawalley, as she conveyed not only how strong Ida’s sense of responsibility and duty is, but also how equally powerful her love for Hattie is. Ida’s greatest fear is for Hattie to make the same mistakes that she made in her own life. Temple Lang brought humor and wit to a character who could have been interpreted only as harsh and unfeeling. 

Similarly, Falanga gave Hattie a childlike curiosity and joy which were heightened in her exchanges with Michael. Michael’s speech about Hattie and her illness toward the end of the play is where Burke’s acting prowess was most evident. He conveyed powerful emotions with ease, creating the feeling that he himself was feeling those emotions, not just his character. 

Krukiel portrayed Rud and his complicated and conflicting feelings about his sisters—particularly Ida—so authentically, delivering his lines with evident passion and clear emotion. Finally, McGurn and Notarianni both gave their characters a humanity that made their performances memorable, despite being less central players in the plot.

Cutler’s directing choices gave the audience particular insights into the play. One notable directing choice was how Cutler chose to portray the way in which Ida tended to the light in the lighthouse. While she did stand by the actual light once or twice, she most often would mime the steps while standing somewhere else in the house. Her mindless imitation of tending to the light even when she was not near it, signified how ingrained Lime Rock is in Ida’s life, and how without it, she would lose her identity. 

Idawalley is a provocative dive into the human psyche and the ways in which different people deal with loss and struggle. It prompts viewers to ponder the questions: Do we run from hardships? Or do we face them head on?

January 29, 2023