SHSU Theatre presents: Scenes from an Execution

Nothing says, “Mourning the dead” like groping your next-pew neighbor. Galactia, the lascivious female painter, runs her hands over Carpeta, her lover, during their peer’s funeral. Her forwardness and his feigned rejection reflect the play’s battle between artifice and reality.

Sam Houston State Theatre opened their second play this semester, Howard Barker’s Scenes from an Execution, last Tuesday. It is set in Venice during the Renaissance, shortly after the Venetian victory in the Battle of Lepanto. To celebrate this triumph, Venice commissioned the realist painter Galactia, whose character is loosely based on a real-life painter.

The plot centers on the themes of sensuality versus censorship. The protagonist, Galactia, embodies sensuality and the bluntness of art, whereas her counterpart, Carpeta, is the dissembling artist. Galactia receives opposition from her patron and the Cardinal, representing state and religious censorship respectively.

The costume and set design, lighting and music were phenomenal. Costuming was excellent, even when costumes weren’t employed. Everything about the set and lighting conveyed an august, illuminated Italy. Music helped reflect the setting and artist’s thoughts, rather than intrude on the production.

The acting was excellent all around. With the exception of several line drops, the exchange and interruption of lines was precisely timed. Ashley Lowe and Adrianna Jones portray Galactia as a public figure and a private persona, respectively. Both create a sensuous character whose only law is truth and only patron is herself. Storms played a George Kastanza-esque beta-male with his hesitation and caprice. Sims and Keeney invoked the brooding, furious censors.

The production’s greatest flaw was Hardy’s writing. The scenes were repetitive and reinforced the anti-censorship theme ad infinitium, ad absurdum. Hardy tried to glorify realism and Wilde’s belief that “All art is quite useless” by writing weak allegory.

Several critics jest that Galactia’s painting is popular only because it is scandalous. This was particularly funny to me, because the play’s audience only laughed at the most sophomoric and lewd scenes or sudden profanity. I preferred the Cardinal’s subtle promiscuity or Carpeta’s pliancy.

Upcoming events from the Department of Theatre include No Exit by Jean Paul-Sarte and House of Yes by Wendy MacLeod. This will be Raven Rep.’s second production this semester and will run from Oct 28 – Nov. 1. Call the box office (936) 294-1339 for tickets or more information.

Scenes from an Execution by Howard Barker; directed by David McTier; costume design by Bich Do; Set design by Nathan Stranaland; stage manager Sara Hodgin; light designer Eric Marsh; technical director Larry Routh.

STARRING: Ashley Lowe (Galactia’s public persona), Adrianna Jones (Galactia’s private persona), Garret Storms (Carpeta), Mike Sims (Urgentino), Marcus Cumby (Suffici), John Ryan (Prodo), Maegan De La Rosa (The Sketchbook), Sara Luke (Supporta), Yliana Arredondo (Dementia), Michael Keeney (Cardinal Ostensible and the Turk) and Josh Fehrmann (Sordo/Pastaccio).

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