Wednesday night, an astounding cast of students from the Claremont Colleges took their audience on an emotional roller-coaster in their rendition of Suzan-Lori Parks’ In the Blood.
Tori Gaines, CMC ’13, plays the role of Hester. From the start of the play the fragility of her character is tangible to the audience. It is easy to empathize with her as we watch her struggle to learn the first letter of the alphabet. The emotional ride ranges from yearning with her in her struggles with her children to crying for her as she breaks down. In the Blood is a modern tragedy with dark comedic undertones inspired by Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. It tells the story of Hester La Negrita, a homeless mother of five fatherless children, and the struggles she faces in a society built on oppression.
The entire cast does a fantastic job at making us feel uncomfortable. Luckily, this discomfort is cut continuously throughout the play by Hester’s five humorous children to allow the audience to reflect on what they have just seen. Unusually, and hauntingly, the actors who play these children also play the roles of adult characters who are directly involved with the unraveling of Hester’s life. The actors, however, are able to transform themselves completely in a matter of moments fitting into their new roles.
Malissa Gaitan ’14, who attended the performance, described it as “very emotional” and “raw”. She said it “was interesting because it takes you out of the Claremont McKenna bubble, where you don’t think about urban life and the lifestyles of people living there”. Iris Liu ’16 added, “it was a moving story that isn’t told often enough – about compassion, and the lack thereof, from people we expect it from”. The director, Pomona College visiting professor Kenshaka Ali ties it up in his director’s notes: “in a world where[…] the impoverished are condemned and vilified as responsible for their own misfortunes, our hope with this production is that you leave the theatre a little more compassionate and conscientious in your treatment of those less fortunate souls who are our silent neighbors.”
While the performance of the actors was strong, the quality of the stage fighting did not meet expectations. As a play filled with moments of violence and emotional charge surrounding it, the all too apparent faux fighting – a punch that obviously did not come into contact with the person being punched – somewhat took away from the intensity of the scene. Nevertheless, the cast was able to make up for it with the raw feelings they emitted in their performance.
As I watched In the Blood, I felt like I was kicked down to the floor, helped back up with a deceiving glimpse of humor, and then kicked back down again. The play ended with a spine-chilling yell and a blackout, followed by the sniffling of the audience, and finally a well-deserved standing ovation. Make sure you take the time to go watch this play. I guarantee that you will not regret it.
In the Blood will be performed in Pomona College’s Seaver Theatre near Frank dining hall this weekend through Sunday, November 3rd at 8 pm. Tickets can be purchased online here for only $5 or at the box office starting one hour before the show. Recommended for mature audiences – ages 16 and above.