1 year ago
Suraiya Rahmetulla
Mercury Staff
Saher Aqeel
Mercury Staff

Harsh drama “subUrbia” opens in University Theatre after weeks of preparation by cast, crew

“subUrbia,” Eric Bogosian’s 1994 play, is making its way to UTD’s stage this month. The play depicts the adventures of characters in their 20s in an American suburban town and their struggles to fit into society.

Adjunct faculty member and director Brad Hennigan said while the play’s theme of dark satire poses a unique test for the cast and crew, he firmly believes the team is ready for the task.

“We first started discussing this season’s choices in the fall of 2014, so it’s a long process. We talk about it well in advance, we try to put together a set of shows that is going to be beneficial both for the theater-going audience and for, obviously, the students that we know (are) involved in the program,” he said. “We definitely felt like this one, with its strong acting requirements, most definitely it would be a challenge for the students that we have, but we felt like we could pull it off.”

Hennigan has over 25 years of professional theater, film and television experience accumulated both in Dallas and Los Angeles. He selected “subUrbia,” which he has coined as a “hyper-realistic play,” to contrast the problems that are portrayed in the ’80s setting of the play with similar problems society is facing today.

“I don’t think we have ever gotten out of the problems that were beginning to surface in the ’80s, and the choices we have made in America have simply exacerbated the same problems,” he said. “I think it’s very important that we use theater for what it is. Theater is a mirror of society, and we need to turn that mirror on ourselves and look a little bit at some of the ugliness that exists out there.”

Intrigued by the intensity of the play, speech pathology and audiology freshman Lauren Massey auditioned for Sooze, a character filled with intelligence and focus, but surrounded by friends who are not quite as driven.

“I wanted more than anything to challenge myself with this play, and I’ve definitely had my work cut out for me,” Massey said. “Peeling back these layers and figuring out how to portray them onstage has been a fantastic learning experience. (Sooze is) very different from all the other characters I’ve ever played on stage. She’s very smart and powerful and wants to shock people out of their passivity. More than anything, she wants people to realize that you can’t go through life with tunnel vision.”

The play also questions certain notions, such as academic expectations, that are now considered prerequisites to success in the real world.

“(It’s) a harsh play. The language is harsh, the ideas expressed by these individuals are harsh and this exists in our society,” Hennigan said.

Rehearsals have taken weeks of thorough preparation. The cast and crew have worked collectively to not only gain a learning experience, but to also understand what is expected in the professional world of theater.

“In academia, it’s a two-pronged approach. You do everything that a director in the professional world does, but you’re also an educator,” Hennigan said. “A great deal of what I do during the rehearsal process is teaching these young actors how to do what they need to do to get to a solid performance, and also what the professional expectation is.”

Hennigan said he hopes the audience interprets their own distinctive message from “subUrbia.” 

“Different people are going to get different things out of this play. Because this play offers a slice of life and has different characters who are experiencing different things during this 24-hour period, different people are going to relate to different characters within that time and are going to pull messages out of this show that are very, very different from each other,” Hennigan said. “To put out there, ‘This is what the message of the play is,’ before anybody comes to see the play does, to the audience, a disservice.”

“subUrbia” opened on Feb. 18. Tickets are available for the upcoming shows, which will be on Feb. 25 and 27.