by Peter Keough ’20 A&E Co-Editor
Upon entering the John Bowab Studio Theatre on Feb. 13-16, viewers were met with a scene that could be described as calamitous. The room was covered in overturned furniture with chairs, tables, lamps, and more lying around in complete disarray. Even more of this debris was suspended from the ceiling, appearing as if it had started to rain down but had become frozen in time before crashing to the ground.
Designed by Trevor Elliott, the set for Beasts captured what seemed to be one of the play’s main themes: the moments of tension before things go completely and utterly wrong. The play, directed by John Garrity of Providence College’s Theatre, Dance, and Film Department, is an original work penned by Thomas Edwards ‘20.
A theatre major, Edwards had been working on this piece since 2014, when he drafted the initial script as a sophomore in high school. Recognizing his requirement to complete a capstone piece for his major, Edwards spent his four years at PC workshopping Beasts with professors, peers, and others. This process was truly extensive, as Edwards stated, “Throughout this past summer and fall…I was making edits; anywhere from a line here and there to wholesale rewrites of scenes.” While his work may have begun years ago, it continued to evolve until it was performed.
This long-term commitment is more than evident in the final product. With a runtime of about two hours and a range of complex characters and themes, Beasts is a multifaceted and holistic piece with a lot to say. Throughout its runtime, characters experience both internal and external challenges, varying from marital demise to facing one’s own demons. The play also jumps between time periods, as omniscient watchers named “Left Samael” and “Right Samael” (played by Katie Vennard ‘22 and Carolyn Bradley ‘22, respectively) travel between 1945 and 1948 to observe the choices made by the leading character Jason Anderson (portrayed by Tim Brown ’20).
By bouncing back and forth between these time periods, as well as allowing the actors to rearrange the chaotic set, Beasts makes sure to convey the aforementioned tension throughout. Each scene feels as if it is adding stress to something that is destined to break. The mounting troubles of the characters only grow more tense and worrisome as their stories continue, while the audience waits with bated breath for something to finally snap.
As can be expected, this snap does occur. Acted, staged, and written in impressive fashion, the most extreme moments in Beasts each carry a weight that continues the plot and elicit gut-wrenching emotion from the audience. These moments allow the audience some relief from the tension that had been building throughout, but also double-down on the unsettling themes of the play. By serving this dual function, the most emotionally-potent scenes become intregral to the play’s success.
As an entire piece of artistic output, Beasts is truly full-bodied. With layered characters, introspective themes, and a gripping story, Edwards created something that truly reflects the years of work that he put into it.