Student Review of Local Play: Betty’s Summer Vacation

To the Editors:

I am writing with concerns to the play that was performed in Wilder last weekend (Nov. 1-3), Betty’s Summer Vacation. I am a big fan of Christopher Durang (the playwright) and this particular play, which could have been a valuable political and social critique. The play presents issues such as violence, sexual assault, child abuse, rape, and voyeurism within the genre of a situational comedy. The show has a live laugh-track that laughs at the most inappropriate and disturbing times. Later, this laugh-track comes to life and rears its terrifying head(s). The work is obviously an extremely dark comedy and is meant to provide a space for the audience to reflect on their participation and their role in a culture that perpetuates violence in all its forms. However, the presentation of this production made evident to me the complete lack of consideration of these issues on the director’s part.
My biggest problem with Betty’s Summer Vacation is that there were no attempts made to educate or inform the public of the issues that were raised in the play. There were no discussions planned post-show, no involvement with the SIC or SAST, and there was not even a cursory warning as to the strong content of the play.
I am not vocalizing my opinion on this work simply because it was BAD theater, but rather because it was UNEDUCATED theater and therefore DANGEROUS theater. What if this play provided a trigger for a sexual assault survivor? Did this production provide the resources to deal with these issues? I would have to say no, and it is disappointing because these resources are so readily available on this campus.
Furthermore, the director and cast of this play did not acknowledge in the program notes or bios the seriousness that underlies this work. I quote from the short paragraph that served as the director’s notes: “Yes, the show is disturbing, and you don’t have to like it. Hell, I don’t even know if I like it. Just don’t crucify me afterwards, crucify [the co-director]. I wasn’t even here this week.”
This is utterly offensive in light of the material presented and the production of this play. This play is not just another play-that-you-can-put-on-in-four-to-six-weeks-in-Wilder-Main. The joking tone in the ridiculously short director’s notes only furthered my anger and my hypothesis that this play was not taken seriously by the director(s). This was only confirmed by the erroneous banners on the front of Wilder (the first of which didn’t credit Christopher Durang at all, and the second of which shortened Mr. Durang’s name to Chris Durang?). This conduct is simply unprofessional, and I can only assume that this attitude carried throughout the whole process, from conception to reception.
It was a mistake to think that this could be an easy and haphazard show and that it could still work. It was a mistake not to take into account possible audience responses. Not only was it a mistake, but it was irresponsible of everyone involved, and I sincerely hope that next time the director(s) of this production will choose to take on a play that doesn’t require so much effort. I won’t be sitting in that audience.

–Andrew Campbell
College junior

November 8
November 15

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