Playwright Will Eno has been described by The New York Times as “a Samuel Beckett for the Jon Stewart generation” and it is no surprise. Eno’s play, The Flu Season, produced by Nomadic Theatre, one of Georgetown University’s student-run theatre groups, is full of juxtapositions and intricate wordplay. This also makes such a play difficult to tackle at times. While Nomadic Theatre makes a valiant attempt, it is the technical effects – the costumes and lights – which truly take center stage in this production.
Director Robert Duffley enjoys the myriad balances sprinkled throughout the play. The show alternates between warmth and cold, sanity and unconventional behavior, life and death. Turning traditional scripts upside down, the play is narrated by characters dubbed ‘Prologue and Epilogue,’ played by Allie Villareal and Amelia Powell, respectively. Prologue begins the introductions, while Epilogue alters them. Two people enter the psychiatric center; one leaves. The nurse and doctor staffing the center oversee it all.
Nadia Mahmassani’s costumes artistically illustrate the concepts of the show. Both narrators, Prologue and Epilogue, are attired in variations of the same suit in various shades of red and grey. As the show slowly draws to its dreary ending, Prologue’s bright, perky costume becomes progressively less so. The ribbons on her hat, perfectly curled at the show’s start, slowly unravel. Her red shoes slowly fade to grey. Even her bright red bowtie comes undone. Meanwhile, Epilogue’s costume is skillfully tattered in just the right places. Her ribbons have never been curled, and even her black hair has stripes of grey running through it.
The Man (Danny Sullivan), and Woman, (Lily Kaiser) are patients at Crossroads Psychiatric Retreat Center and the characters closest to sanity throughout the play. Likewise, they remain in their uniform blue hospital scrubs, with solid-colored sweaters added as the season grows colder. Even the stage crew are costumed, wearing the sterile white doctors’ jackets that mirror those worn by the Doctor (Brendan Quinn) and Nurse (Vivian Cook).
Like the costumes, G. Ryan Smith’s lighting skillfully shifts between hot and cold, mirroring the costumes of Prologue and Epilogue and perfectly reflecting Sasha Elkin’s simple yet powerful set and its multiple doors into and out of the characters’ lives.
Because of Eno’s Beckett-like nature, the text would be difficult for anyone to carry, but all the student members of the cast perform with great confidence and emotion.
The Flu Season plays through March 31, 2012 at the Walsh Black Box Theatre located in the Walsh Building -1221 36th Street NW, in Washington, DC on the campus of Georgetown University. Tickets can be purchased online.