The Oberlin Review
<< Front page Arts October 14, 2005

Stillwater starts with a bang
Stage comedy still engaging after summer hiatus
Standing in Stillwater: David Unger and Courtney Merrell perform semi-improvisational comedy in front of a packed audience at the Cat in the Cream.

The Cat was packed this Monday night as the known and beloved improv drama Standing in Stillwater kicked off its second season. People struggled to move past the doorway, tripping over those seated cross-legged on the floor in the entryway. Warmth poured from the room, exuded by teacups and bodies that filled all possible space.

“There’s lots of room, I think we just need to take out these chairs here and squeeze together, be cozy,” said a student attempting to introduce the performance while people were still piling in the door.

The show, which began last year, is a semi-improvised teen drama, taking place in a private school for girls in Minnesota. Boys now attend the school due to an accident at the neighboring boys school, and it is this mixture that creates the show’s desired dramatic effect. Adored by many Obies, Standing in Stillwater has acquired an almost cult-like following amongst the student body. Murmurs of last year and what was to happen this year filled the already crowded room as the lights flashed to signal the beginning of the show.

There are some new characters this year. The school has eight students, four male and four female. The male students — Morgan, Dylan, Spencer and Lewis — clash beautifully. Stereotypes ranging from insensitive masculinity to flamboyant homosexuality stir the hearts of the audience as the students interact. The female students take on a slightly different dynamic. Joss, Bianca and Berit struggle with issues of popularity and insecurity. The fourth student remains a mystery until the very end of the show.

Fans who have missed the show should be sure to come next week, for it was quite the ride. It began with a half-naked Morgan running into Mrs. Watkins’s office due to an explosive encounter with Bianca that occurred when she walked in on him with her roommate Joss. The effect of this commencement was wonderful. The audience, sitting with bemused looks, was engaged and glowing.

It is the irony of the show that allows it to be so engrossing. The typical Oberlin student probably does not watch shows such as The OC or Laguna Beach, but they can appreciate this performance.

Why is that?

“I think it’s the combination of total ridiculousness and a small feeling of sympathy for their trials that keeps me coming back,” said a junior who had seen most of last season.

The lines are funny, too, if one has a sardonic sense of humor. Upon moving in, Dylan broke up with his boyfriend, Toby. In a fit of passion, Toby tried to convince Dylan that it was better to be with one another.

“[It’s important] that we’re gay together as a unit,” he said, wrapping his arm around Dylan with a comedic tone in his voice.

The girls struggled with rooming situations for a good part of the act, allowing the characters to be redefined for first-time watchers. The adult characters seem to watch events take place in bewilderment, always misinterpreting events.

“I don’t get along so well with kids — they all listen to hip hop music and talk in crazy words,” said the current owner of the school, Mr. Duckler (not to be confused with the Mr. Duckler of last season).

The boys’ drama is somewhat different. After a seemingly random decision to go fishing, they perform trust falls at the wonderfully awkward Lewis’s insistence. The falls did not exactly serve their purpose.

“You whore of Babylon!” said Lewis to Morgan when he dropped him.

However, the two reconciled later when Lewis gave Morgan relationship advice.

“You know what your problem is? You’ve got to ditch this girlfriend — and find a womanfriend,” he said.

The shallow relationships moved to a deeper level with these words, and yet still rested playfully on the waters of irony. A final kick was given to the show in its ending.

After the students find out that the school will not be sold, a new face appears.

“Welcome to Stillwater, Roxy,” said Mrs. Watkins as the lights went out.

A suspenseful ending leaves fans wondering — what will happen next time? To find out, go to the Cat and the Cream at 10 p.m. Monday nights and satisfy your need for a commentary on life that is not serious. At all.


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