Human interactions today seem to have been reduced to texting and Facebook messaging. However, School of Music, Theatre & Dance senior and directing major Emily Lyon hopes to challenge these ideals in her senior thesis with the presentation of the play, “The Hothouse,” by Harold Pinter.

The Hothouse

Friday at 7 and 11 p.m., Saturday at 7p.m.
Walgreen Drama Center’s Studio One

“The Hothouse” takes place in what appears to be a mental institution or asylum, though this is not ever explicitly stated — a quirk that is common in Pinter’s plays. Lyon chose to set the play in the United States in 1984, giving it a modernity the 1950s-written play did not formerly have.

“I think the show is very appropriate for our time,” Lyon said. “I always try to pick pieces that will say something to who we are now and the audience we’ll be addressing. ‘The Hothouse’ is a mockery and a condemnation of bureaucracy, more or less, and it shows us in a time of Facebook, military drones and systemized health care that institutionalizing human interaction is not what we do best.”

The show develops a Clue-like game of whodunit. After an alleged murder and rape takes place in the sanatorium, the characters scramble humorously to find the culprit, causing the play to take on a comedic sense while dealing with more serious themes.

“The characters themselves are given numbers instead of names, which ties into the distancing of humanity,” Lyon said. “It’s a chess game from there of what has happened and who is going to challenge the system, if anyone.”

The show, taking place in Walgreen Drama Center’s Studio One, is unusual because it is not often that the University puts on Pinter plays. Pinter is known for a few trademarks, one being the Pinter pause, which places emphasis on the words and gives actors time to reflect on them. Because of Pinter’s quirks, his plays can sometimes be a challenge.

“For the theater majors, this is definitely a different experience and a different type of theater overall,” Lyon said. “One challenge we’ve been having is that in finding what this institution is like and dealing with how intentionally vague Pinter can be, it has to go against a lot of actors instincts to create a very tense and funny show.”

The cast has had a great deal of bonding time on and off stage by researching the show through different kinds of games. They have played a game of Assassin (which is still on-going), Clue and even an English tea time. Lyon believes the small cast has really made her senior thesis special.

“The cast is amazing, and I was extremely fortunate to get one of the strongest casts that I could have possibly put together,” Lyon said. “They are certainly seven heavy hitters. They challenge me and they inspire me, and it’s been really wonderful.”

Lyon focuses her energy in trying to convey a certain aesthetic, and with her last act as an undergraduate, she hopes “The Hothouse” will continue to display it.

“I focus in on trying to tell the best story, and making sure that every single moment is interesting and alive,” she said. “I love colorful characters and what draws me to theater is thorough understanding and pinpointing of genuine humanity. Often, what we find funny about theater is seeing ourselves in it.”

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