When something from a class catches our attention, the really good student in us should grab hold of it for closer study.

Fortunately, this campus’s student-run and produced groups often make that formally possible. When RC junior Kaleigh Cornelison wanted to direct and explore a play she read in class, she turned to the RC Players, the totally student-run theater group behind such shows as the bi-annual Evening of Scenes and Kamikaze Theater. Cornelison’s focus was Sam Shepard’s 1978 “Curse of the Starving Class,” part of his family-oriented tragedies and one of the acclaimed playwright’s most recognized works.

The director described “Curse” as essentially a family’s search for fulfillment, in an America suffering the instability of the Cold War.

On a more immediate level, “the family’s biggest problem is that the father’s absent and drunk all of the time. So, as a family they want to come together, but they never can,” Cornelison said.

Shepard is known for his blunt and highly illustrative language. The tone of his plays is unpredictable, and their substance varies between the humorously bizarre and the serious.

“There are a lot of comedic moments but there’s also a lot of depth – that’s what drew me to it, those sincere moments,” Cornelison said.

Shepard’s dark humor comes through in flashes of absurdity, which could be interpreted deadpan or with deliberately comedic delivery. RC junior Lewis Ezekiel described his character as one in a pair of “goons who come to shake down the father for his debts.” The goons deliver the news of their meddling to the family and then ask that they pass the news on for them, saying, “We do hate to repeat ourselves. The first time’s great, but after that it gets kinda boring.”

The characters’ communication switches between eloquent expression and electrifyingly drastic action. Of “Curse’s” characters, Ezekiel said – kidding a little, but not that much – “Just when you think ‘oh my god, you’re such a character in a play,’ then they pee on something.”

Beside a few moments that keep both actors and audience on their toes, the dramatic heart of the play is about people’s pasts catching up to them. It’s a sympathetic theme, one that should make this weekend’s show accessible to all.

Curse of the Starving Class

Tonight and tomorrow at 8 p.m.

Sunday at 2 p.m.

At East Quad Auditorium


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