"War of the Worlds," the Oswego State theatre department’s first play of the year, starts off with a bang. The play, directed by Mark Cole, theatre department chair and professor, centers on a present-day world where aliens from Mars invade various cities in New Jersey.
A radio station filled with production crew and reporters deal with the world’s conflicts that surround them. The play’s first five minutes consist of no dialogue whatsoever. The silent tone that begins the play comes off as frantic rather than dispassionate.
Though this was before the characters were aware of the unexpected arrival of extraterrestrials, their unease foreshadows the troublesome fate they face.
The silence was finally broken and the radio show begins.
Through all the turmoil in the outside world, the radio crew try to manage their station and get news out to the public. Though martians are wreaking havoc on their world, all the characters can do is report.
The entire ensemble is on stage throughout the entire play. Though every character does not have a line in every scene, each of them had a vital purpose towards the play’s flow. Those without lines and those with few lines all contribute to the busy theme, whether a character was just holding a microphone, or just sitting down and conveying their facial reactions to the breaking news.
There is constant change where each character interacts with the stage in a different way.
When a character is not speaking, there’s a concise movement. At times, it seemed as if the staging became choreography. Each actor had to be in a specific position at a certain time, and if one person were out of line the entire setup would be out of order.
‘War of the Worlds’ went in a different direction than most plays. Most of the emotions the characters were going through were brought to the audience, not through the dialogue, but through the audio effects and each character’s own physical emotion.
At times, it felt as if the cast became a dance troupe. Some of the choreography was very intricate, which strongly suggested the plot with no need for words. The cast also seemed to turn into a choir at one point in the play. They joined together in song for a few minutes.
The set, designed by Timothy Baumgartner, seemed as if it was no longer in Tyler Hall. Upon entering the theater, it felt as if one had arrived in a radio station. It consisted of authentic materials and a television screen in the background; basically becoming a film within a play.
Connected to the television screen was a camcorder that various characters used throughout the play to film scenes while they were unfolding.
The play featured several powerhouses who commanded the stage when they spoke. Christopher Walker had no lines in the first half of the play, yet in the second half, he consumed the stage. His striking monologue as the Stranger engulfed the entire theater and made you want to hear more.
Walker’s monologue transforms into a heated dialogue between him and Nike Pike, who played Professor Pierson. Pike’s calm character brought rationality to Walker’s emotional outburst. His pace brought stability to the play’s emotion, complementing Walker’s passion.
Sarah Sterling brought a sophisticated tone to the play as Aunt Ruth and Announcer Two. In the midst of the confusion among the characters on whether or not they would be in a safe world or not, her presence and monologues brought sensibility to the play’s overall theme.
The audio effects, designed by Steve Shull, at times may frighten some audience members.
The blue lighting, also designed by Baumgartner, creates a mellow tone in contrast with the serious troubles the characters are going through. Near the end of the play, the tone shifts with the green lighting that creates an eerie feeling of uncertainty of the end.
The audio and visual effects also took over at times to present how the characters were feeling.
It was evident that the play’s production was elaborate. It consisted of several complicated elements that contributed to its impeccable level of quality.
"How does one stage a script, intended for radio, in a theatrical setting?" comments Cole in his director notes.
The script was only a tip of the iceberg when it came to producing such a piece. The choreography, singing, pace and interaction with the stage all contributed to the complexity that the play achieves.