The Visitor

Brian Merlos
“The Visitor” goes up this weekend at the Walgreen Center on North Campus. (Courtesy of basement arts)

Tonight at 7 p.m. and 11 p.m. Tomorrow at 7 p.m.

At the Walgreen Center Studio One

Free

A woman is impregnated, exiled, ends up at a brothel and loses her baby. This is the important backstory of Swiss playwright Friedrich Durrenmatt’s “The Visit,” a Basement Arts production in Studio One of the Walgreen Drama Center this weekend. The production is the brainchild of School of Music, Theater and Dance junior Adam Moskal, who was inspired to direct “The Visit” after he saw the play put on in Pittsburgh, Penn.

The concise title may appear innocent, but the themes of “The Visit” are anything but. The audience will receive healthy doses of greed, corruption and revenge by the play’s end.

“It is definitely an intense tragicomedy,” said School of Music, Theater and Dance senior Aaron Seeburger, who plays the heroine’s ex-love, Alfred Ill. “There are some pretty extreme moments, but there is a lot of humor as well.”

The play opens in desolate Guellen, Germany, the same town that previously exiled the heroine, Claire Zachanassian. Guellen’s impoverished citizens are preparing a celebration for the return of the now-wealthy Claire. She accrued a large fortune through several prosperous marriages.

But Claire’s return is part of “her perfect revenge,” Moskal said, “one she had been planning since the day she left.”

She seeks vengeance for what Alfred Ill, the only love of her life, did to her. When Alfred found out he was the father of her child, he hired two drunks to claim it instead, effectively freeing him of the responsibility. The town shamed Claire for copulating with such trash and exiled her in the process. Claire returns to Guellen to put a price on his head.

Needless to say, things get dicey. She offers to pay the entire city $1 million once Alfred Ill is murdered. The ragged townspeople initially refuse the proposition and defend Alfred, but then they begin to purchase many lavish items on credit – items they couldn’t possibly afford themselves. It’s as if they’re confirming someone will commit the murder, and the longer no one steps up, the worse the situation.

For director Moskal, the emphasis is on the play’s narrative qualities.

“Too often, theater these days is based upon spectacle,” Moskal said. “I wanted to use theater as a form of storytelling to affect change.”

Moskal referred to Durrenmatt’s original intention for “The Visit,” which was to write a timeless play. The focus of “The Visit” is simply its message to the audience. As a result, it can be performed in practically any time period. Moskal’s production, running on the standard $100 budget from Basement Arts, honors this by placing the focus on the themes and not the set.

“The reality is, the themes stand on their own,” Moskal said. “They are universal.”

Though “The Visit” may not be full of spectacle, it is certainly accessible art and entertainment. It allows the audience to actively indulge in a portrayal of what happens when bad choices are made, which can be a morally rewarding experience.

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