Endeavoring freshmen searching for God in the midst of Orientation Week need look no further than Brody Theater on East Campus.
They might not find any deities, but they will discover a tightly paced production of Woody Allen’s one-act comedy "God," thrown together for late-night enjoyment by the student theater troupe Duke Players. Throughout the show, the characters must face all the big questions of free will, human existence and how on earth to end the play. Of course, being by Woody Allen, the play tackles these questions with the brainy irony needed to undercut the possibly pretentious musings. And this being a Duke Players show, the text has been seasoned with a rich assortment of campus references—the artsy characters hang out at the Coffeehouse and the cliched philosophical ramblings come to us via a UNC philosophy minor.
The local references serve to welcome freshmen into the Duke scene and introduce them to some of the collective beliefs held by Duke students, said director Mike Myers, a junior. To achieve this, Myers adapted the original script, which made fun of New York and Broadway culture.
“Sometimes it’s very taboo to change the play, and you always want to respect the author’s intent, but we decided it would be most respectful to Woody Allen’s intent if we suited the play to our audience the way he did,” Myers said. “Instead of the Jewish, New York and Broadway culture, we’ve got a Duke, Durham and freshman culture.”
The play follows some ancient Greek thespians attempting to put on a successful play of their own, but they discover that they are in fact characters within a student production happening right here at Duke University, prompting plenty of frightening questions on free will and determinism.
Actors must grapple with the challenge of becoming characters within multiple different plays, but senior Nick Prey said it was actually more liberating than confusing. He plays the ancient Greek actor Diabetes, who portrays a humble-slave-turned-hero in the play within the play.
“It’s actually extremely easy because once the fourth wall is intentionally broken, it relieves a lot of stress, because you can’t really break character once you’ve established that you’re not really a character yourself,” he said. “It becomes sort of a structured improv.”
Myers noted that improv and ad-libbing played a key role in the process of getting the show up and running, which happened over one hectic week of six-hour rehearsals. Sometimes the actors experimented with different ad libs. At other times, crew members would heckle the actors from off-stage to give them practice responding to unexpected situations.
The humor of the script kept energy high among the actors, even with the intense rehearsal schedule, Prey said, adding that he sees many other reasons for new students to make their way to the shows this weekend.
“It’s late at night, they say sex, the word orgasm is thrown around a lot—what more could you want as a freshman?” he said.
The free shows will take place at Brody Theater on East Campus at midnight on Friday and Saturday. There will also be performances Aug. 30 and 31 at 8 p.m.