On Nov. 20 and 21, St. Mary’s College of Maryland’s Bruce Davis Theater played host to a renowned troupe of performers as they showed a collection of scenes and comedic, gruesome skits based on the work of Edward Gorey.
Happenstance Theater, a theatre company based in Rockville, Maryland and tours all over the country, has been together since 2006 and their primary focus is devising comedic routines and putting them all together into a mishmash of jokes and skits. Before both shows, there were workshops. On Nov. 20, the workshop was led by Sabrina Mandell and Mark Jaster and focused on physical comedy. On Nov. 21, the entire group led a discussion about their devising process, then they led the group of students in a set of exercises that allowed them to get a taste of devising, such as building a scene where they had to portray a sunrise without the use of any dialogue. First-year Katrina Walcutt attended both workshops and felt that “The workshops were brilliant. The first one gave me so many ideas and so much information on how things create a laugh, how moving can induce thoughts and then the second one was on devised theatre and how it’s a lot of trusting the people you’re working with and that wholehearted belief was just really powerful.”
When the show itself started, the audience knew they were in for a wild time, with a lot of fast music played live by Ellen Cherry on the piano as members of the cast ran across the stage, giving the audience a quick look at the different characters. From there, it was simply one delightful scene after another. All were centered around gruesome deaths and hilarious social disasters. Sophomore Reginald Clark attended the show and shared his thoughts on his experience: “During the play I thought, ‘how funny are these guys?’ They are really entertaining and I couldn’t stop laughing. Just top notch.”
There were so many wonderful and incredibly entertaining acts, such as cast member Alex Vernon doing an impressive knife juggling routine. Or Mark Jaster performing a mannequin posing routine only to get a cease and desist from the mannequin company. There were also many instances of comedic timing and physical comedy that group obviously spent a lot of time working on, including a scene of people playing croquet that goes horribly wrong, that is shown mostly in slow motion. When asked about this, Walcutt said “You got to see every agonizing moment and they were able to do so much with their bodies with core strength and holding positions and holding a facial expression, no matter what else is going on. That determination and dedication is just great.” Of course the black Victorian Era costumes, designed and crafted by Sabrina Mandell, made everything feel so much more creepy and dark. “I am always absolutely floored by their costumes and they always convey the characters so well,” Junior Nadia Gaylin said when asked about the costumes.
Happenstance brought every scene to life and brought ample amounts of creativity and enthusiasm to the stage. The joy that they got from what they did was clear to anyone who watched and the delight that the audience got from the performance was also obvious, from the roars of laughter to the ruckus applause, it was a wonderful experience for everyone involved. Walcutt stated, “I wanted to go up to the actors after the show and thank them for the incredible work that they did.” Clark had similar regards, “I really enjoyed it. I like how each actor had their energy towards their character and how the movement flowed from one scene to another scene without missing a beat.” “Cabaret Macabre” was a wonderfully horrifying and hilarious experience and hopefully Happenstance Theatre will return to bring more laughs and good times in the near future.