Student playwright blends goth and gay for New Works Festival

“Somewhere Someone is Traveling Furiously Towards You” by Marilyn Schotland observes queerness from a dark yet meaningful lens.


Marilyn Schotland’s “Somewhere Someone is Traveling Furiously Towards You” takes the audience on a road trip through time and space. (Craig Schwartz / School of Dramatic Arts)

This is how it begins.

The School of Dramatic Arts’ New Works Festival Year 3 continued Friday night with the premiere of the original piece “Somewhere Someone is Traveling Furiously Towards You” by Marilyn Schotland, a graduate student studying theatre with an emphasis in dramatic writing. 

Upon entering the venue, a simple initial set design established the scene for the quaint yet intimate environment of Scene Dock Theatre. The stage was bare except for a chalkboard with the words “THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST” placed center stage. Audience members don’t get the payoff for this reference to Oscar Wilde’s classic comedy until the end of the show, but it was all the more reason for people to engage with the story throughout the play.

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As if the spotlight focus on the sole chalkboard wasn’t enticing enough, the audience members were left in awe as the five cast members came onstage at the beginning of the show and played out symbolic choreography that also doesn’t get explained until the end of the show. This wasn’t much of an issue, though; for an original work, maintaining the mystery is effective in keeping the audience wanting to learn more as they dive into this new world.

Stripped to its bare bones without monsters or magic, the show is your typical road trip plot. With only five main characters, audience members could appreciate the parallels between the pairs of characters on their respective trips. 

Distraught by the pre-plot moment of her wife being killed by a terrible monster, Feiffer — played by Belle Meyer, a senior majoring in theatre with an emphasis in acting — and her hunger for revenge is successfully contrasted by the adorable optimism of her nephew Falco — played by Daniel Stark, a freshman majoring in theatre with an emphasis in musical theatre — who only wants the best for his grieving aunt.

On the other side of the story, the monster who killed Feiffer’s wife is personified and is revealed to be a guilt-ridden and brooding angel named Bunbury — the first of many references to Oscar Wilde’s comedy — played by Lane Haven, a freshman majoring in theatre with an emphasis in acting. Throughout the show, Haven wore a gorgeous black-and-white, feather-dominant costume designed by Kealey Busch, a junior majoring in theatrical design. 

By the angel’s side, the audience followed Marek — played by Sun Jin, a junior majoring in theatre with an emphasis in acting — an easygoing college dropout who has the hots for both his happenstance partner-in-crime and Falco throughout the show.

The real standout of the play was the character Kit — played by Soph Cimmino, a sophomore majoring in theatre with an emphasis in comedy as well as biochemistry — who was established as Feiffer’s dead wife. Schotland brilliantly incorporated clever moments played for surface-level laughter that turned into something more substantial and hard-hitting as the story progressed. 

The audience was rightfully shocked at the reveal that the minor comedic characters, such as a waitress at a cafe and a stereotypical frat boy — showcasing Cimmino’s dynamic acting range — were all meant to be Kit haunting Feiffer wherever she went.

The concept of the show — as gothic and mystical as it tried to be — is easy to digest. The playwright spent a lot of time establishing the idea of queer time, crediting the term to the author Jack Halberstam. In this respect, everything that the play had to offer was given to the audience on a neat silver platter in Marek’s introductory scene, but the audience would have to think back and revisit this specific scene in order to completely understand the twists toward the end.

Speaking of twists, there are three in total that happen in succession. In the final confrontation between all five characters, it’s first revealed that Kit has been haunting Feiffer the entire time. As if that wasn’t enough, despite the audience mainly following Feiffer’s path of self-destruction letting revenge consume her, the audience discovered that Bunbury felt more immense guilt for killing Kit. 

Finally, the play went into a “meta” direction, where everything that the audience had seen up to that point was a play within a play that Bunbury continually loops in dire attempts to change an inevitable outcome, keeping all other four characters trapped in their own pocket of queer time.

Were all these twists really necessary? An audience member who hasn’t read or seen “The Importance of Being Earnest” may have felt unnecessarily overwhelmed by all of the new information being thrown at them at the last minute in order for everything to get resolved only shortly after. 

However, Schotland deserves kudos for taking inspiration from the final confrontation between all characters toward the end of Wilde’s comedy, where Wilde jumps from one twist to the next, mainly played for laughs. The fact that Schotland used this technique and adapted it to fit the dark tone and campy genre of this work was commendable.

Overall, despite a few bumps in the road, the audience appreciated the natural integration of queerness throughout the show. The queer themes that were explored felt organic to the plot and really shined through the play’s characters and their relationships with each other. 

Even if the written characters were far from perfect in their own right and the plot had some awkward story beats, it was endearing to witness the topic of queerness being embraced and explored by passionate actors in such a creative and impactful way by Schotland on the stage.

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