Student directed play performed in the Interim Theater on campus

Alanna Cummings and Alanna Cummings

Donned in all black and given nothing but hats, scarves, and manuscripts, the cast of “Under Milk Wood” presented an outstanding staged reading Thursday night of Dylan Thomas’s most famous work.

Normally designed as a play-for-radio, “Under Milk Wood” was revived in a refreshing and illuminating way at the Interim Theater by John Trethart, a City College student who directed, designed and starred in the performance. Including Trethart, 10 actors were employed to portray over 50 characters, an ambitious but brilliant stage effect.

In Thomas’s original play, every scene takes place during a normal spring day in Llareggub, a small imaginary village in Wales, England. An all-knowing narrator begins the story by revealing every character’s most intimate dreams, secrets, and memories for the audience to absorb. When the town awakens, Thomas visits each character as they grapple with the significance of their dreams and try to carry on with their daily routines.

All 10 actors took turns narrating the stories, a creative twist that was absent from Andrew Sinclair’s film adaptation. Richard Burton served as the primary storyteller in that version, with only one other narrator providing the “second voice” to the plot.

In Trethart’s play, he acted as voice two. His narrations of the townspeople’s daily lives appeared intermittently throughout the play and inserted humorous and thoughtful wisdom into each character’s innermost thoughts. Trethart and every other actor delivered Thomas’s poetic descriptions and fast-paced dialogue with a remarkable amount of enthusiasm.

Thomas’s beautiful language was one of the main reasons the play was so enjoyable. His use of alliterations, back-and-forth banter, and lengthy soliloquies throughout the dialogue keeps the audience on its toes – a rare quality in staged readings.

Because the play was not performed like Sinclair’s film, costumes and scenery were excluded, presenting somewhat of a challenge for the actors. Instead of the elaborate set designs and sophisticated costumes usually incorporated in plays, they had hats, scarves, and their imaginations to rely on. It was a truly successful way of exhibiting how talented each actor is.

With the exception of Tim Whitcomb, whose performance as the blind sailor Captain Cat was quietly moving, every actor had to play multiple characters. And yet, they greeted every new character with passion and individuality. Whether they changed their hats or simply their expressions, the actors kept alive a key theme that was evident throughout Thomas’s original manuscript: the uniqueness of the townspeople.

Their seamless transitions from character to character were also a true testament to their talent and creative flair. In one scene, Luke Metherell played two characters at once, engaging in a conversation with each other and forcing him to change costumes in between dialogue. Hannah Wolf and Yvonne Trethart both played nine characters total. Because some of the parts required singing, James Stenger and Jess Hager incorporated acapella songs into their performances. All of the actors brought something different and imaginative to each character, and it made the play that much more charming.

Aside from a few dialogue stumbles, Trethart’s rendition of “Under Milk Wood” was an exceptional performance and truly a nice surprise. What a refreshing feeling as a film lover to know that underneath all the set pieces and intricate costumes, an actor’s pure talent can still be unearthed.

first 9 minutes of play reading =