Friday, November 24, 2017

Review of A Swell in the Ground at The Gift Theatre

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called A Swell in the Ground. It was by Janine Nabers and it was directed by Chika Ike. It was about a couple, Nate (Keith Neagle) and Olivia (Sydney Charles), who lived in New York. You get to see their entire relationship from when they got together in college to their roughest times. And they have two college friends--Charles (Andrew Muwonge) and Abigail (Darci Nalepa)--who complicate their relationship and sort of act as confidantes even though the couple should just be talking to each other. It's about young love, thoughtless decisions, and finding your way. I think this is a beautiful show that really shows the ups and downs of a relationship in a really clear and compelling way.

I think it is really cool how this play jumped back and forth in time. It shows you the roots of why people did things, but in a way that makes you think about why they did things before it is actually revealed. Once there were two scenes going on in the same place but at different times. I thought that was a really cool way of showing what had happened a few years ago and why what was about to happen was especially terrible but makes sense. I think it is a really well-written scene, because the second you ask yourself a question, like "what does this mean," the scene answers it, but not in the way you thought that it would. Jumping back and forth in time means the actors have to know their character arc in even more detail than if it were just in chronological order because it isn't building in the play in the same way it would be building in real life. It is jumping all around and the development of the character is going back and forth. I think the actors all did a good job showing the transformation of their characters from when they were like 18 to when they were like in their late 30s even though they didn't do it in order.

Olivia I think is a very interesting character because she is a good person who is going through a very hard time and the person she is with is not helping her with that. I can see why she is demanding a lot of effort from Nate--because she has just lost someone important to her and doesn't know if she will have someone like that again. And when the one person she thinks she can count on is put off by her pain, she feels like she needs to go to someone else because she isn't getting what she needs from Nate. I think she does it in an appropriate way. What she does is talk to someone she's been friends with for years to get his advice and doesn't keep it from Nate. But the second his feelings get hurt, Nate goes off to someone he has already had an intimate relationship with recently and has an intimate relationship with them and doesn't tell Olivia until she says she wants to continue to work on their relationship. What they should have done is just talked to each other about their problems and helped each other. But Olivia can't do that by herself and I can't really tell if Nate wants to or not. I think Nate thinks he understands himself, but he really doesn't. Once Olivia says she wants to step back from the relationship but not get a divorce, he immediately acts on his impulse and tries to replace a relationship that hasn't even ended yet.

The relationship that you start out rooting for isn't there at the end of the play. That is different from a lot of plays because in a lot of plays you see a relationship grow and have its trials and tribulations, but it all works out in the end. This play is more realistic because sometimes things just don't work out. Maybe one person is more to blame than the other, but I think the person who is less to blame gets the better outcome because they did the right thing and now they know what to avoid in a partner. It's not like every relationship that has a bumpy road figures it out and comes back together. But I still think this play has a happy ending in a more realistic way because people are happy in different ways. I think the way it ends is all for the best, but it is not the way you thought it would end.

People who would like this show are people who like surprising endings, learning from your mistakes, and complicated characters. I think people should definitely go see this show. I think it is a beautiful and well-written script and it was performed in a powerful way. I loved it.

Photos: Claire Demos

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