The UI Theater Department’s production of ‘Orlando’ is a work of art come to life

Orlando combines expert acting, stunning setwork, and a whole lot of heart to create an unforgettable performance.

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The UI Theater Department’s production of ‘Orlando’ is a work of art come to life

Jenna Post, Arts Reporter

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From just one look at Orlando’s set, it’s clear that the show is going to be nothing short of  a work of art. It still managed to exceed my expectations. 

Adapted from a Virginia Woolf novel of the same name, Orlando transports the audience members through time as they follow the journey of an immortal from the Elizabethan era to the present. 

However, I found the plot to be the least compelling part of the show. That’s not to say it was bad — in fact, far from it — but the production’s greatest strength was its cast.

Amy Miller Martin looks in a mirror during dress rehearsal for Orlando on Nov. 4. The play is directed by Erica Vannon; it opened in Mabie Theater on Nov. 8.

The ensemble, scantily clad in white Elizabethan-inspired costumes, worked like a well-oiled machine. 

The players functioned as a group to narrate Orlando’s story and create dynamic tableaus with their bodies, almost as if they were a part of the set itself. I was reminded of the ensemble in Hamilton.

Related: UI Theater Department transcends time and gender with Orlando

However, unlike Hamilton, all members of the ensemble had the opportunity for standout moments because they each played at least one minor character. Their ability to shift seamlessly from part of a whole to a distinct persona was truly impressive.  

As for the titular character, Orlando stole the show. Playing a person whose lifetime spans centuries can’t be an easy feat, but it was executed expertly by Amy Miller Martin. 

 

At the core, Orlando remained the same over time, but with each passing era something about the characterization changed. The character development was not only believable but commendable.

Another acting challenge that the cast excelled at was creating believable romances. Orlando has three primary love interests throughout the show, and there was clear chemistry with each. 

While I could sing the praises of the cast all day, I’d be doing the crew a disservice if I didn’t mention the technical aspects of the show.

Actors perform during the dress rehearsal for Orlando on Nov. 4. Orlando is directed by Erica Vannon; it opened in Mabie Theater on Nov. 8.

The beauty of the set and lighting comes from its simplicity. Each side of the stage was lined with three columns that mirrored the architecture of the ancient Greeks, and the back of the stage was illuminated by a screen of ever-glittering lights.

The screen was clearly capable of displaying whatever image the lighting designer pleased, because it displayed text that told the audience which century they were moving into between scenes, but deciding to simply use different color gradients was the right move. 

The color choices set the mood for each scene, which was more important than using a backdrop related to the era, because Orlando’s costumes reminded the audience members of which century they were in.

Orlando will play at Mabie Theater from Nov. 8 through Nov. 16.

 

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