Maya Zanger-Nadis, Justice Editor

To say that “Blood and Water” was a unique experience would be a wild understatement. Written by Lilia Shrayfer ’18 and directed by Joelle Robinson ’18, “Blood and Water” is decidedly challenging to describe.  An interactive show, it begins with The Violinist (Aviva Davis ’21), a divine being creating the world and snarkily narrating her process to the audience. The plot was rather difficult to follow, but ultimately centered around a lost soul’s  (Brenda Shen ’18)  journey to understand itself and understand what it is to be human in today’s troubled world.  An audience member remarked after the show that it was “like a seven layer cake of metaphors,” and I am entirely in agreement. The lost soul was at times a rebel, fighting for its freedom in an oppressive society; at other times it was a refugee in the afterlife, working as a cleaning lady and combating prejudice. Shrayfer explained that this directly alluded to “our biases about people who come to our country and where those biases come from.” The play also explored feelings of displacement and desire to connect to one’s own family history through storytelling.  Themes of religious fanaticism and absurdist humor also contributed significantly to the show as a whole, and I wish I could unpack each aspect more thoroughly. However, to adequately pick apart each layer of  Shrayfer’s “seven-layer cake” would take more time than is available to a single soul on any spiritual or astral plane.  Shrayfer’s final remark to the Justice certainly summarizes her work’s more whimsical side: “The play is about kitchen appliances!”

- Editor's note: This article has been corrected and updated to include the correct spelling of Lilia Shrayfer's full name. 

Joshua Rubenstein, Justice Staff Writer

Sara Kenney ’18 definitely achieved what she set out to do with her senior thesis, redefining  “how we engage with [women] in a  performance space beyond [the] traditional definition of womanhood.” “The Most Excellent and Lamentably PC but Incompleat Tragedy of Shakespeare’s Womyn (without a Single Reference to Lady Macbeth): or What You Will” is an expertly crafted compilation of Shakespeare scenes that focus on female characters interacting with each other or defining moments of femininity in all of its forms. 

I was absolutely floored by the direction and choreography of Andrew Child ’18 and how well it meshed with Kenney’s endearing madcap charm to create a truly original atmosphere and theatrical experience. Rachel Greene’s ’20 performance as Kenney’s scene partner showed off her  range, maturity and vulnerability. Both Kenney and Greene were sublime in the show’s comedic scenes, and their humor and chemistry made them truly a delight to watch. However, because of the show’s compilation style, the dramatic scenes lacked the build up and punch of the greater context of the shows that they belonged to. The production’s use of projections was very effective, in certain moments giving the audience an insight into the rehearsal process and in others aiding the atmosphere of the scenes. 

At no point during the show did I feel like I was watching something I had seen before. Every scene was explored with a sense of originality and, most exceptionally, a sense of imagination at play. 

Sabring Sung, Justice Editor

“Lucid,” written by Gabi Nail ’18 and directed by Raphael Stigliano ’18, proved a thoughtful and evocative addition to this year’s Senior Festival. Dawn (Lindsay Dawes ’21) and Faith (BT Montrym ’19) were nuanced characters who forced the audience to ponder what it means to protect someone, whichRiver (Eliana Weiss ’21) and Zinnia (Karina Wen ’20) brought the emotional drive to move the plot forward. The striking set, designed by Hannah Uher ’18, also deserves high praise: The mounds of recyclable trash added both thematic and auditory layers to the story, while the sleek dining table spanning the stage visually represented the estrangement between characters. Though I felt that the motif of lucid dreaming could have been further integrated into the plot, the performance ended with questions I was happy to ponder. With only time to watch one play this Senior Festival, I am glad that “Lucid” was the one I could watch.

Josh Rubenstein, Justice Staff Writer

In his program note, Tres Fimmano ’18 explains: “It was only through conversations with other people that I learned this show would take the shape it did.” Directed by Haia Bchiri '20, Fimmano’s senior thesis, “Queering the Cape: Hidden Themes in American Superhero Comic Book” plays out  like an impassioned lecture, an essay brought to life on stage. The characters played by Charlie Atchinson ’21, Ben Greene ’21, Ryan Sands ’19, and YiQian (Alex) Wu ’19 represent a spectrum of the LGBTQ community. As the show progresses, the characters reveal themes of queerness within superhero comics, including historical information and personal interpretations based on their own identities. A lot of the time the show was like a symposium of audience members watching characters inform each other about history and the comic book superheroes that they connect with. Each one of Fimmano’s characters was  a fully-formed person and the actors that played them were charming and fun to watch. Kudos goes to the attention to detail in the set design, which contained identifiable comics, DVDs, and fan memorabilia. They added a lot of understanding to the fandoms and loves of the characters. Overall, “Queering the Cape” was a  exploration of representation, storytelling, and how the legends and myths of our society help us to understand ourselves and cultivate an individual identity.  

-Editor's note: This article has been corrected and updated to include and credit Haia Bchiri as the director of "Queering the Cape: Hidden Themes in American Superhero Comic Book."

Brianna Cummings, Justice Staff Writer

For her senior thesis, Keturah Walker ’18 wrote “From Pearls to Hoops,” which she co-directed with Shaquan McDowell ’18. 

Walking into the Laurie Theater on Saturday night, I had no idea what the play was going to be about. I tried to guess while I searched for a seat in the packed room. Music from Beyoncé played and the audience seemed excited about the performance they were about to see. The lights then dimmed, and the show began. 

The play started with Walker, playing herself, speaking with a student of a different race (Tyffany English ’19) about her plans for spring break. When Walker mentions her father, English’s character “I didn’t know you knew your father,” a line with clear racist undertones. This leads to Walker’s inner monologue as she contemplates how to react. 

Most of the play is presented as a flashback: We see Walker throughout her childhood and high school years, and a large amount of the play focuses on Walker’s experience at Brandeis as the only Black senior who is a theater major. We get to see her deal with microaggressions, studying abroad and eventually learning to love herself. The play was inspiring not just to Black women at Brandeis, but to anyone who has felt weighed down by other people’s assumptions. Overall, the play was amazing and insightful. This performance definitely gave me an improved perspective by teaching me to focus on the positives when facing adversity.