Monday, August 23, 2010

FRINGE: Veritas

There is no doubt that Stan Richardson's Veritas, which sold out its entire run before the Fringe Festival even began, is the hit of the festival. So, is it worth the hype? Well, it needs some work, but mostly, the answer is yes.

In 1920, Cyril Wilcox, a student at Harvard University, committed suicide at his home. His brother, Lester (an intense Doug Kreeger), discovered letters sent to Cyril implicating his classmates in homosexual activities. "The Court" was formed by the president and dean of the university to interrogate the students. The play offers its version of these events. This disturbing period in Harvard's history was only uncovered in 2002. It's an important story that deserves to be told. The writing is quite powerful, effectively using repetition and greek chorus style where the actors often speak at once. The use of music and Shakespeare monologues make this a lovely production (directed by Ryan J. Davis), but the downside is that the play is a little too artsy and it would be hard to connect to the characters were it not for the cast of talented up-and-comers. Sam Underwood deserves particular recognition as the shy and awkward Joseph Lumbard, one of only two to be deemed not guilty and allowed to return to the school, but Justin Blanchard, Paul Downs Colaizzo, Mitch Dean, Morgan Karr, Eric Nelsen, Matt Steiner, Jesse Swenson, Joseph Yeargain, and Kreeger deserve recognition for their fine work humanizing the play.

Veritas loses its footing a bit at the end. A dream-like scene in which Lester is playing a game show at the end of his life is very out of place with its humorous and surreal tone as is the epilogue in which the characters break the fourth wall. Sometimes, Richardson and Davis could trust the story more rather than relying on these devices, but this is a very promising first run and I expect to see an even stronger production in the near future.

Remaining performances are Tue 24 at 4:15, Thu 26 at 3:30, Fri 27 at 5:15, and Sat 28 at 8 at HERE Arts Center. Performances are sold out, but there is a cancellation line.

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