To conclude the Denizen Theatre’s 2019 season and to usher in the 2019/2020 winter season, “Sender” takes the intimate black box theatre’s stage.
Written by Ike Holter, “Sender” explores what becoming an adult and taking responsibility for our own lives looks like through an outrageously lively rollercoaster of emotions.
The theatre’s lights shine on a brick, urban apartment with a roof and a city skyline. Beer cans line the roof like gargoyles. Clothes are strewn all over the couch and around the apartment floor. Food wrappers take over the coffee table, and stacked under the coffee table is an alcoholic’s wet dream of liquor bottles.
The only untouched, organized part of the set was a bookshelf filled with CDs, a CD player and a sepia photo of a young man and woman.
“Sender” centers around three millennials who believe their close friend and lover, Lynx, played by Denizen’s own Ben Williamson, has died. Beginning 366 days later, Lynx reappears, very much alive.
The play doesn’t only reveal the damaged and twisted psyches of Tess, played by Veronica Cooper, Jordan, played by Maurice Chinnery, and Cassanda, played by Samantha Jane Williams, as a result of their beloved friend Lynx “dying.” Eventually, the play also illuminates Lynx’s true colors as a misguided manipulator, rather than a legendary messiah-esque figure who blesses everyone he encounters.
“We chose this play because we love how relatable Ike Holter’s dialogue and characters are, how universal and poignant the play is and how in our current culture the complexities of ‘being an adult’ and ‘what it means to grow up’ has varying degrees of awareness,” Williamson said.
Perhaps the most powerful example of shedding their millennial skin and getting hit with the unfortunate reality of “being an adult” was Cassandra’s line at the end of the play.
“Grow the f*ck up, because at some point, this is not going to be cute,” Cassandra bellowed as she dramatically gestured to Cooper’s disheveled apartment.
Director Martine Kei Green-Rogers was excited to tackle the play because of the simultaneously genuine and ridiculous characters and the funny, snappy and visceral dialogue.
“[Green-Rogers] poked us with questions that were either impulse driven actions or thoughts to ponder, as characters, which allowed a freedom to continue to dive into the life of the play,” Williamson recalled.
While the message of the play, according to Green-Rogers, is that “adulting” takes on many forms and at the end of the day, how one gets there doesn’t matter nearly as much as actually getting there, this message was lost due to the neurotic and manic nature of the characters, the numerous unanswered questions and the choppy, fragmented dialogue.
The chemistry between the characters and their individual behavior was reminiscent of a sitcom. The exaggerated acting of the cast was almost unbelievable, and resembled caricatures of people instead of relatable human beings. With an abundance of overacting and unnecessary overanimating, all that was missing was a laugh track.
“Sender” ended up requiring a good amount of concentration and patience to follow both the plot and the exchanges between characters. While the dialogue was meant to be “snappy,” it was delivered at such a fast pace that one’s cortisol levels spiked and remained at this level for the duration of the play.
“See, it’s your fault!” “No!” “Yes, it’s your fault!” “No!” “Yes, it is!” “It’s not!” “It’s true!” “Wait a minute!” This sort of outrageous back-and-forth arguing screamed through the microphones, is just a brief snippet of the exasperated dialogue of the play.
The onslaught of cursing in the play surpassed being cheeky and edgy, and moved into the realm of ridiculousness. In one scene, Tess went on a roughly 15-second rant just saying the words “f*ck” and “f*ckity f*ck” while angrily pacing.
The conclusion of “Sender” would have been more fulfilling if there were not so many questions left unanswered. What are the intricacies of Tess’ relationship with Cassandra and Jordan? Why is Cassandra so hellbent in securing the friend group as a family? Why was Lynx the social glue? In what ways did he touch everyone’s lives?
While “Sender” was meant to be fast paced, it managed to overlook these important backstory details and worked to prevent the audience from truly empathizing and connecting with the characters.
The Denizen Theatre announced its pride with the $5 student ticket program, claiming that 1,000 students came through the Denizen’s doors this year through the program. If you are a student, witness “Sender” for the price of $5 before it leaves the stage on Oct. 27. Ticket prices are $28 for regular patrons, $15 for those under 30 years old and $24 for seniors. Come see what “Sender” is all about!