“Student Body,” by Lansing Community College Performing Arts, is a 60-minute punch in the gut. The Frank Winters play is eye-opening, jaw-dropping and thought provoking.
Its adult story about an assault spares us witnessing the crime but doesn’t spare us details or anguish. As “Student Body” unravels, we are drawn in to the many messy facets and repercussions of a rape.
A compelling cast of ten captivate attention as they reveal more and more about their roles and motivations. Innocence is burned away, evil bubbles forth, friendships dissolve and sanity fights to find a voice.
Edward Heldt stands out as the defensive and volatile Rob. His overbearing speech and scary outbursts seem genuine. Ian Van Camp plays a perfect Pete, his protective and pernicious pal.
Maria McCarthy’s Natalie is a believable lush who drinks to hide an ugly secret. Emmie Paullin as April, makes her expressions of anguish seem credible. Olivia Hines’ tenacious Daisy emerges as the outsider who has the only moral compass that points consistently in the right direction.
The violence on the Dart Auditorium stage is real. Fists smack against unforgiving surfaces. Boards get tossed; fierce scuffles break out. A shop broom bounced off the stage and landsed in this reviewer’s front row lap.
The looks-like-an-under-construction set by Bartley Bauer — with properties by Joseph Meier — offers plenty of boxes to stand on and lots of loose ammo for mêlées. Julian Hendrickson’s haunting projections on planes of the set are memorable additions.
Dialogue spoken away from the audience and rapid shouting in “Student Body” can be sometimes hard to understand. Recorded music and erratic lighting are distractions.
Deborah Keller’s direction keeps the action simmering and the interactions unflinching. She gives each character a distinct personality.
The performance confronts the issue of rape for those affected by the crime but does little to comfort its victims. An incident is seen through the very different eyes of college-age youth who lack maturity and, too often, compassion. I wondered if “Student Body” would be different if a woman wrote it.
The play is insightful while leaving many questions unanswered. I left impressed by the portrayals yet angry at the characters. I did not want to accept its conclusion. The disturbing messages linger on. That’s probably what I am supposed to feel.
LCC Theatre Program
Feb. 22-24 Friday & Saturday, 8 p.m. Sunday, 2 p.m. $15 Adult, $10 Seniors (65+), LCC Alumni & Staff $5 Students (with valid college/high school ID) Dart Auditorium 500 N Capitol Ave, Lansing (517) 483-1957 internal.lcc.edu/cma/theater