Fall through the cracks at the Fairchild Theatre


The world premiere of “Stevie and the Real World” climbed out of the depths of the Earth and rollicked at Michigan State University’s Fairchild Theatre this past weekend. The show grew organically out of a 2022 worldwide call for emerging playwrights. Iraisa Ann Reilly, a New Jersey-based writer, performer and educator, was selected by a cohort of MSU master of fine arts candidates from a pool of more than 300 applicants and was tasked with writing an original play, which would serve as a capstone project for the graduate students.

Reilly holds a master’s degree in dramatic writing from New York University and a bachelor’s degree in theater and English from the University of Notre Dame. Her original screenplay, “La Reina del Bronx,” took first place in its category at New York University’s 2022 Fusion Film Festival and was a semifinalist for the 2022 Vail Film Festival Screenplay Competition in Vail, Colorado.

The script for “Stevie and the Real World” was developed through monthly Zoom conversations between the students and Reilly, where they discussed personal stories and issues of interest.  The result is a colorful mish-mash of humor, time travel and puppetry. An homage to MTV’s “The Real World” that’s redolent of other teen-centric TV shows and Millennial pop culture, the story centers around a group of college friends who embark on a weekend getaway at a northern Michigan lake house. It’s discovered that the multicultural array of undergraduates was sent by the university because they were at risk of “falling through the cracks.” But one friend, Stevie, was left behind. The friends return to the lake house in 2024 determined to make amends and find Stevie. They literally fall through the cracks of the Earth to enter an alternate reality of reconstructed memories. In the end, they find their true selves and repair their relationships with each other, discovering that falling through the cracks doesn’t have to be a bad thing.

While much has been written about the partnership between the ensemble cast and playwright, the real show stealer in this production is the marriage of set, media, sound and lighting design. Master of fine arts candidate Kessler Jones has created a truly spectacular cabin in the woods and a playground-style underworld complete with retro marquee letters, Kabuki curtain drops and enormous purple hands that fall from the ceiling. This set wouldn’t be complete without Bunni Gutierrez’s dizzying time-travel lighting design and media design by Lauren Spiegel and Alison Dobbins, whose digital backdrops and montage sequences bring it all to life.

If music is memory, master of fine arts candidate Brandon McDuff uses popular TV jingles to take us back in time. Dramaturg Daniel T. Smith and costume designer Kat Poon remind us of the inexplicable blend of flannel, micro denim mini-skirts and Ugg boots as a fashion choice, and we must give a nod to stage manager Abagail Mullen for seamlessly bringing it all together with impeccably timed fun. This capstone project is a love note to Michigan, college and Millennial pop culture.


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