This weekend, Geneseo's own Brodie Black Box Theatre will host the much-anticipated VegSoup production, A Day in the Death of Joe Egg, by Peter Nichols. It will be directed by senior theater/English major Jamal Abdunnasir. The play is a dark English comedy featuring many well-known Geneseo student actors as well as some fresh faces. The cast complements each other well, capturing the emotions and attention of the audience with their interactions and personalities.
The play centers on a family struggling with the task of taking care of their catatonic daughter, Josephine (junior Rianna Mayou), a 10-year-old girl suffering from spastic epilepsy. Though her character remains immobile in a wheelchair throughout the play, Mayou does an excellent job of portraying Josephine's occasional "fits." She moans and contorts her arms in a way that is at once frightening and pitiable; reminding the audience that despite her condition, Jo is very much a living person.
Junior Danny Carroll and freshman Bridget Saracino both present superior performances as well, playing Jo's parents Bri and Sheila. Their characters use humor and sarcasm to cover up their feelings of insecurity and despair to their friends, to each other, and sometimes the audience as well. This tactic forces viewers not only to understand the impossibility of Bri and Sheila's situation but to consider what they themselves would do if faced with the same fate for their own children. Additionally, the history that Bri and Sheila relate behind Jo's condition is a stark comment on the ways that society distances itself from the scientific and moral dilemma of "vegetables" (a term Bri recalls one of Jo's doctors using to describe her complete lack of brain function).
Impressive performances are also seen by junior David French and sophomore Vanessa Kahen as the well-to-do Freddy and Pam, friends of Bri and Sheila. Freddy's arguments for Jo's institutionalization provide a more bearable course of action for Bri and Sheila on the grounds that it will be best for Jo as well as for them as a married couple. Pam's monologues, however, reveal a much less noble potential motivation behind sending Jo away - the need to be rid of this "flaw" in their lives.
Finally, senior Samantha Mizrahi captures the personality of Bri's mother, Grace-a "private" woman ultimately looking out for her son even at the cost of hurting others. Her position, while seemingly harsh, is at the same time understandable, and again the audience must wonder if they would behave any differently if presented with a similar fate.
Director Abdunnasir said that he discovered A Day in the Death of Joe Egg when reading it in an acting class. He then decided to do it as a VegSoup production in his senior year; "I thought it was a perfect play," he recalled. When asked if he thinks the production will be a success, he responded with a smile: "I think so."
A Day in the Death of Joe Egg will run from Thursday, Oct. 18 through Saturday, Oct. 20. Tickets can be purchased either at the Brodie Box Office or at bbo.geneseo.edu.