"The subject is magic: What is it? Does it exist? And if so, where does it exist?"
A young woman surrounded by book stacks posed this question to the audience – an invisible lecture hall of students. She continued through projected slides until an explosion of thunder left the stage in darkness. It was an eerie and mystical omen to what was to come. Although there may not be an answer to where magic exists, the play "Rough Magic" was certainly bewitching.
The USC School of Dramatic Arts is regarded for showcasing productions of a high caliber – and "Rough Magic" was no exception. Directed by associate professor of acting John DeMita, the fantastical play was a refreshing escape from realism and kitchen sink dramas to which many colleges cling. With magic spells, a transforming lizard man and bedazzled drag queens, the adventure-packed play surprised and entertained.
Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa's play links English literature with pop culture to create a silly, magic-filled tale. Melanie (Lucy Grebin) is a bookish, unlucky with love dramaturg who possesses the secret power to summon characters from Shakespeare's works and place them in the real world. After an unsuccessful blind date with a seventeen-year-old lifeguard Chet (Quinn Blades), Melanie is surprised to find Caliban (Brandon Lessard) transported from his island prison in Shakespeare's "The Tempest" to her Manhattan apartment. The three misfits then embark on a quest to save both the real and the fictional world from Caliban's father, the evil Prospero (Tim Frangos).
The production was a fun and unpredictable fantasy that successfully weaved dramatic and campy elements together, with an all-star ensemble of Trojan actors and designers.
Grebin was comedically brilliant and is an intelligent and adorable Melanie. Blades' Chet was incredibly earnest, and he wore his sincerity with the same eagerness with which he clutched his lifeguard buoy. With Lessard's booming voice and off-the-wall movements, Caliban seemed to have hopped straight out of a Marvel movie.
The play was sprinkled with many other quirky characters. Keara Dooley played a passionate graduate student, Linda Summers, with a mature sophistication. Tisiphone, a Fury from Ancient Greece, was performed with unapologetic spunk by Tristan McIntyre.
The set design by Ruby O'Brien was ingenious from the floor of the stage to the ceiling. If Hogwarts were an American university, this set would be it. Stacks of old books lined the walls, and secret passageways magically opened and closed – skillfully blurring the line between fantasy and reality.
Funny and heartwarming, the cast and creative team of "Rough Magic" were enchanting in many ways.
"Rough Magic" at the School of Dramatic Arts ran April 19- April 21 at the Scene Dock Theatre.
You can contact Contributing Writer Shelby Corley here.