You Can’t Buy Talent but You Can “Rent” it

Photo courtesy of the New Paltz Department of Theatre Arts.

The talent that is our SUNY New Paltz community has always astounded me. SUNY New Paltz’s production of “Rent,” written by Jonathan Larson and directed by our own Jack Wade, is a classic musical that has been portrayed on stage and screen. It’s a favorite in the hearts of many. I had high expectations when heading to the theater Saturday night, to what was a sold out show.

Overall, the show was fantastic. Even though I have seen other performances of  “Rent,” this production resonated with me the most. It’s an interesting concept that these faces you see on campus every day have such talent and power behind them. The show had a good way of balancing the emotion with laughs, which brought the audience on an emotional roller coaster.

Though the play was over two hours and thirty minutes with an intermission, I wanted to be with these characters even longer.  The leads of the show each shined individually and those who were in couples had great chemistry. Maureen Johnson (Berlande Millus) and Joanne Jefferson’s  (Jenny Berger) chemistry was electrifying. Take Me or Leave Me, a song that discussed their opposite natures as individuals, showcased both actor’s vocal range and displayed their acting skills very well.

The ensemble cast was an interesting aspect of the show. In some scenes, I found them cumbersome and distracting; however in other scenes when the ensemble was not there, I felt their presence would have brought life to a scene that was lacking with just two of the leads on stage. I also enjoyed how certain members of the ensemble were able to shine as individuals, like Roger’s mother and the character Alexi Darling.  They added a certain quirky humor to a dark, but hopeful show.

The choreography was an aspect of the show that didn’t really impress or stick with me like the vocals and acting did. I did enjoy the split stage aspect that was performed in some scenes, in which one couple would be performing through song and the other would be acting nonverbally.

A benefit of McKenna Theater’s stadium-like seating,  is that any seat in the house is a good one. Even though I was seated toward the back, I was able to see the stage and everything on it clearly. The spectacle, or the visual aspects of the show, were simple yet effective.  The use of the minimalistic set to show many different settings was clearly done and gave a chance to let the actors shine and not have them be overtaken by a flashy set. I enjoyed the industrial aspect of the nontraditional Christmas tree that hung from the ceiling of the set and the use of the metal tables as a hybrid item.  The snow and smoke effects that were used gave the show just a touch more of magic.

“Rent” is a musical that  can be enjoyed across many generations. Even though I was not born in the time period in which the musical takes place, I am still able to appreciate the plot and understand the events that ocurred. Rent truly transcends time. The cast of SUNY New Paltz’s Rent production brought this timeless story to life and gave the story a new meaning all their own.

“Rent” will be playing at McKenna Theater Nov. 20-22 at 8:00 p.m. and Nov. 23 at 2:00  p.m.