Review: Scenes from an Execution

The winter play painted a world for the audience to experience for themselves.

Tess Fuller, Section Editor

Two minutes and forty-three seconds. That’s how long it took to be immersed in the 16th century Venetian world of Advanced Theatre Ensemble’s production of Scenes from an Execution by Howard Barker. The roaring Renaissance took on a life of its own onstage with Bella Diaco ’18 and Garrett Distasio ’18 at the center. Their characters, Galactia and Carpeta, respectively, are entangled in a professional and romantic relationship that not only tests their dynamics with each other, but their relationships with their art, livelihood and the politics of the time.

The show was directed by Chris Marshall, and the set was designed by McKenna Ebert ’18, the first student to design a set for a mainstage production. Variances in the heights of raised platforms and scaffolding drove the plot through beautifully raw moments of shifting power. The Doge, played by Justin Kuhn ’18, donned a flamboyant jacket that reflected his character’s personality, as he graced the upper levels of the stage. Galactia, played marvelously by Diaco, moved with purpose, as she seemed to be chasing a thread of destiny to the curtain call. As she moved from the floor level, to above the audience, to below the scaffolding during her imprisonment, her motions modeled perfectly the impermanence of not only her employment but her way of life and pride.

Pride was a major theme in this production, as each character wrestled with his or her voice and power. Characters that seemed strong would be overtaken by a stronger counterpart at any given moment, which caused the audience to rethink their interpretations of the characters and the direction of the storyline. The introduction of the cardinal, Ostensible, in the second act, played by Richie Ferrelli ’19, challenged the powerful Doge and his influence over the citizens of Venice.

The most brilliant thing about the play and its production was that no matter the conflict onstage, all efforts and emotion were directed into the audience with lights, sounds and the fact that the audience was not an unobtrusive observer, but rather a part of the graphic and emotionally moving painting that Galactia was working on. The painting that brought the characters on stage together and the audience to desperation, discomfort and awe. There was something spectacular about the characters looking out at the audience, dragging them into their world, and then weeping at their imagined misery. The audience became a mirror of the past and present, reflecting the cruelty of war and heartache upon the faces of actors. The crowd held their breath during Jack Touchton’s ’19 scene, when he played a stunned sailor, gazing out at the audience upon Galactia’s 100ft x 100ft canvas depicting gruesome war. The tears he shed in reaction to his future elevated the soft pounds of heartbeats within the crowd.

Scenes from an Execution was a play for the audience and the actors in equal counterpart. The performance was complete with the involvement of the audience and the hard work and talent poured into the show by the cast and crew. Bravo!

Mary Ebert
TWO MINUTES AND FORTY-THREE SECONDS: Diaco sketches Distasio at the top of the play. Already, power dynamics are being established with physicality, lighting and height. Galactia’s strong characteristics are exemplified by her positioning above Carpeta and the light that illuminates her.
Mary Ebert
CAREFUL COSTUMING: Kuhn’s jacket not only reflects light, but the decadent lifestyle of the Doge of Venice.
Mary Ebert
IGNORANCE IS BLISS: The moment that a drunken sailor (played by Touchton) discovers Galactia’s painting, he realizes what his enlistment in the navy has in store for him.