USF Production is savagely good

Risque art has an amazing way of developing a following. A forbidden fruit is almost immediately an attraction that should not be passed over. This appeal, though rudimentary, might be just the thing to boost the number of viewers of The Psychic Life of Savages, a play by Amy Freed, directed by Christopher Steele, that opened Wednesday at Theatre 1.

The play, which was denounced by the USF English department for being too controversial, is a phenomenal work dealing with depression, angst, apathy, the conception of artistic and creative genius and, as any play about passions should, sexuality.

The premise of developing the fictional characters based on four real-life poets works beautifully for Freed. Through her development of characters she is able to explore themes normally not fathomable to an outsider. Each of the personae seems to represent his or her own individuality – their apparent traits serving as good examples of the same characteristics in all humans.

The play itself is incredibly well acted. The talent held by USF students Adam Belvo, Victoria Tranthem, Christine Goertz and Paul Reller should not be shunned by even Broadway stars. The actors become their characters – they make them seem human, they bring them alive. No actor steals the show – each puts so much effort into the work that everyone shines equally.

It’s a pleasure to watch Tranthem as Anne Sexton, changing from a nervous wreck to a sex kitten. Belvo in his energetic Ted Hughes captivates the audience with his cultic tendencies. Reller as Robert Lowell brings apathy to a new light, a more understandable one at that. Goertz, as the cynical Sylvia Plath manages to depress not just herself but the audience, as well.

The acts are well arranged; though the original play consisted of three acts, Steele combined and divided them to his own accord. The separation he decided on works well with the action.

The highlight of the first act is the party scene – an enrapturing light-hearted take on the toils of poetics, in which the guests deserve particular recognition for their talent. The artistic culmination of the second act occurs in one of the first scenes, during which the poets share their feelings in a rhythmic/melodic session of self evaluation and cooperative composition.

The play is very well directed- there is no confusion as to the nature of the characters, their movements or intentions. The only part that seems to be misguided is the role of Vera. Though played very well by Nikki Flinn, her character, could have been more cold and cynical in the first act to amplify her realization in the second act that she has been wrong not to care.

Due to the heavy inlay of poetry in all scenes, the play is not an easily understandable one. The work, although not just for poetry connoisseurs, requires at least an appreciation for the art of poetic expression.

Because the play deals with sex and its effects on the writers in a considerable part, it has not received the backing of the English department as one of the plays the freshmen classes are required to see. And if the premise, acting and themes of the work are not enough to draw in the audiences, the forbidden fruit of a risque work should.

The The Psychic Life of Savages will be performed today and Saturday at 8 p.m. in Theatre 1.

Contact Olga Robak at oraclefeatures