By Samia Afsar
The Brooklyn College theater department showcased its production of “The Skriker,” a play written by Caryl Churchill and directed by Lauren Zeftel in the Don Buchwald Theater on Apr. 21.
In her director’s note, Zeftel began by stating, “What you are about to see is certainly a monster of a play.” And boy, was she right!
In a nutshell, the play revolves around two women: Josie (Shenisha Mitchell), who we first meet at a mental institution suspected of killing her baby, and her pregnant friend Lily (Nathaelle Denis), as they fall victim to an ancient fairy known as the Skriker (Caitlin McNichol). By latching onto the two women and confronting them in her endless guises whenever she sees fit, the Skriker possesses Josie and Lily’s reality, deviously merging their perceptions of reality and fantasy.
The play begins with a montage of curated clips of smoke, acts of violence, drug use, and towering architecture projected onto the white-ribboned backdrop and transportable pillars that make up the set. The stage then cuts to black when a voice emerges, spewing out dialogue bordered somewhere between poetry and insanity strung together by an eccentric English accent exaggerated by theatrics. A spotlight appears and reveals the Skriker — a mystical being dressed in a leaf-patterned bodysuit with bright orange and umber-colored wings. Her movements are zany and brisk with each sudden movement perfectly complementing the poetic jargon of her nearly 20-minute opening monologue.
“The Skriker” is disconcerting. Its arduous storyline and unintelligible dialogue often make it impossible to comprehend its convoluted twists and turns, and with some plots abandoned entirely, patrons are forced to leave with unanswered questions, such as why Josie killed her baby, or why the Skriker acts the way she does. However, there exists a beauty within Churchill’s play that engrosses you completely.
It is no doubt that the BC theater department has proven to produce phenomenal shows. Their productions of “The Motherf*cker With The Hat,” directed by Patrick Sabongui, and “In The Next Room, Or the Vibrator Play,” directed by Florence Le Bas, are both examples of exceptional storytelling.
What makes their production of “The Skriker” unique lies in its labor of love. It’s difficult to envy McNichol. Her dedication to not only memorize her seemingly endless lines, but to also remain enlivened throughout the entirety of the 90-minute show, is proof of the ceaseless efforts put into executing this stellar production, especially when considering the complexity of Churchill’s writing.
Or take for example, the passerby (Jordan McKenzie), a silent, presumably human dancer who sways on stage for just about the entire show. Despite being engulfed in sweat, he never once missed a beat or appeared unenthused.
“There have been many times when this play has felt too big, this process too fast, the resources too limited, and yet, here we stand — open armed to share a hyper detailed, fantastical world and a fully embodied story with you,” wrote Zeftel in her director’s note.
Although convoluted, one thing about the BC theater department’s showcase of “The Skriker” remains clear — the students remain committed to providing patrons with the most pleasant theater experience.