DECATUR — Families run hot and cold during the holidays, and Jonathan’s family is no exception — slamming doors and all.
The tragicomedy “Wintertime” spotlights the highs and lows of bringing others into a family, especially at this time of year. The play will be Dec. 7 to 9 in the Albert Taylor Theatre at Millikin University.
Director Kevin Hoffmann said the play has music and dancing, but it is not a musical. The actors portray their emotions through movement and physical acting.
“During one scene, they are slamming doors in each others’ faces,” Hoffmann said. “It is an elaborate dance.”
Writer Charles Mee uses a non-realism style (a fanciful emphasis by the actors and set) with realism (convincing representation of life), as a base. He uses specific opera music to tell the story and create emotions.
Hoffman said he understood the need for the specific music once he heard the pieces: “The joy, the despair, the pain, everything was understood."
Emotions felt in the common person are often contained or filtered. The characters in “Wintertime” show dramatic versions of their emotions. The family has dysfunctional relationships in which they express themselves with lots of emotion.
“The highs are high and the lows are low,” Hoffmann said.
And the parents each have their own lovers outside of their own marriage.
“And they all know who each other are,” Hoffmann said.
Jonathan, each of his parents and their lovers all arrive at the same cabin, hoping for a romantic getaway. Instead they find each other.
“From there the dramatic conflict and tensions continue to build,” Hoffmann said.
The director and cast find the play interesting because of the comedic value, but also because of the raw emotions with no sensors or boundaries. The play is for adults.
“There is some swearing and lots of sexual talk,” said actor Colby Jones. “Accusations are thrown around. It is not appropriate for a young child.”
The actors enjoy the story as well as acting in a diverse play. Ashleigh Martens described the style of the play as realism interwoven with absurdism.
“It is a switch when you have to go back and forth between the two,” she said. “It was interesting to navigate.”
As an actor, Jones wanted to look charming on stage. He was told by the director that did not fit his character.
“Don’t be cool; embrace the fool,” Jones heard from the director.
The characters get to a place where they experience such high emotions, that they act out in a very exaggerated, physical way that involves music.
“The music underscores it,” Hoffmann said. “But the actors don’t sing.”
The play is a comedy allowing the audience to laugh at the characters and their predicament.
“Hopefully, we empathize with the characters,” said Hoffmann, who said he laughs and cries as he watches the play unfold.
Hoffmann said chose the play, however, because of the great number opportunities for his students in large cast of 10 with three lead characters. All of the students will learn and showcase their talents, he said.
Martens said the play has been a great experience for her.
“You experience the lows and highs,” she said of her character. “It is really rewarding to know people will connect with the show.”
“At it’s core it is one of the most interesting and satisfying story,” Jones said. “For the audience, it is a great journey to go along with it. Hopefully, they will leave reflecting on their own lives.”