As the stage manager bustles and the master electrician finishes checking spotlights, actresses sit under the careful eyes of the costumers. The director and designers are sprinkled among the students in the intimate space of DeWitt’s studio theatre with their jobs finished—whether they like it or not. The lights go down, come back up and “Crooked” has opened. A three woman show that runs roughly ninety minutes, Catherine Trieschmann’s play is the first of four mainstage productions from Hope College’s Theatre Department this school year. Laney, played by Emi Herman, is a fourteen-year-old struggling with a condition that causes her shoulder to bunch up called dystonia, as well as moving across the country. She turns to writing short stories that reflect her problems.
Using sharp imagery and light metaphors, her micro-prose captures the youth of her voice; the ties to how she feels are not always evident at first, but as things unfold, the audience can hear her internal conflicts clearly. Elise, Laney’s mother, is played by Madison Meeron. She must come to terms with her husband’s mental illness, as well as her daughter’s rebellion. Instead of writing, Elise copes with light substance abuse and list-making. She lists possible jobs, possible new husbands and reasons why, despite the pain, she had to let her husband go. Lisbeth Franzon plays Maribel, Laney’s first friend in the new town who is several years older than her and devoutly religious. Claiming to have “invisible stigmata,” Maribel feels immense pain in her hands during particularly stressful moments. She is unphased by social cues and evangelizes immediately upon meeting the others.
Given such a small cast, the play shines with the complexities of relationships between these three characters. Laney hasn’t quite come to terms with her father’s institutionalization; she had always had a closer relationship with him, as he supported her creative endeavors. Elise struggles with the lashing out of her daughter, especially in the wake of losing her husband, a man she is still in love with. Laney keeps to herself mostly, writing and reflecting, as the dystonia drives the students from talking to her. Laney’s cravings of support are found in Maribel, another socially outcast student, who is very excited to read the work of her only friend.
Laney becomes overinvested in her friendship and becomes infatuated first with Maribel and second with the identity she has crafted, calling herself a “holiness lesbian.” As she becomes bolder in this, her friend pushes back, and Laney begins to cover her tracks with lies. Building upon this, she tells her mother different things about their relationship. The show climaxes as these lies begin to collapse around Laney in a confrontation between all three women. Unfortunately, “Crooked” has already closed, running from Oct. 10-14. The theatre department is already hard at work with the next show, however. The musical “Into the Woods”—music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by James Lapine—opens in a month, running from Nov. 14- 18. Tickets are free for students and can be picked up at the box office in DeWitt. Hope’s Theatre department only runs a musical every other year, so you won’t want to miss it.