The latest main stage play, “The Thugs,” transformed the Chichester Blackbox Theatre into an office space with desks, a hallway, an elevator and a murderer.
This play was about a group of temporary workers in a law office in New York City. People in the building were disappearing or being killed for unknown reasons. The workers had no idea who was killing the other temps, and they were not allowed to discuss it in the office.
The show was brilliantly done. The director Marcus Lane took advantage of the fast-paced dialogue and made some interesting choices when it came to underlying clues and special effects.
The set alone was extremely impressive. Before the show, the Chi-Box was a black square box with platforms for seating. The crew of this show transformed it into a flat office space complete with three man-made walls that added depth to the room.
Two of the walls formed a hallway to the far right. The far left wall had a platform in the middle that served as the elevator. A crew member was in charge of moving the elevator doors which featured lights that showed which way the elevator was going.
The two windows in the theater were wired to flash like lightning. This served as both a tension builder and a comic relief.
Lane also made it possible to get many different perspectives of the show just by where someone was sitting each night.
The choices were limitless for audience members because the play had no closure whatsoever. All the audience knew was that one of the workers was dead, another broke her arm in the blackout and the newest temp quit after her first day. The killer’s identity was entirely up to what each audience member experienced.
The actors as a whole worked well together and seemed to respond well to one another. One group that worked especially well included Brandon Caruthers, Ashton Tillery and Kelly Nguyen. Their dialogue flowed smoothly and they were fun to watch.
There was one actress that stood out throughout her performance. Liz Ann Terry’s portrayal of the anxious Mercedes was so well-done that it was hard not to watch only her throughout the show. The audience could connect with her on many levels, including her character’s experience with being bullied for reasons she couldn’t control.
One actor, however, didn’t seem to show any growth in her character. Alix Black, who played the bossy and pretentious Elaine, seemed to try too hard to make her character stand out.
Her character didn’t build to anything because it was obvious she was just acting. She didn’t become her character; it was nearly impossible to connect with her.
Overall, the show was extremely enjoyable and impressive in such a small space. It was suspenseful and the blackout scene really had every audience member jumping or clinging to their seats.
For more information on the next main stage production check out the UM Theatre Department website.