‘Placebo’ —A moment of peace


staff writer

“Placebo” literally means “to please.” A cast of four Gannon University students does just this in the upcoming Fringe Festival performance of “Placebo,” which opens a four-day run Thursday at the Schuster Theatre.
The script is new and edgy, but the problems are the same as of old.
Playwright Melissa James Gibson writes an honest reflection of life in the modern, innovative world.
She examines the balance between perception and deception.
She invites audience members to accept this honesty and to be truthful in their relationships, whether public or private.
A dress rehearsal of the performance last week proved to be an intimate experience.
The script is full of memorable lines. It is simple and clear.
The characters speak as we speak every day. They have the same problems we have. Their struggles are our struggles.
We all have our problems. Oftentimes we are too afraid to admit it and ask for help. We say it’s my problem and we search for a solution.
Sometimes we want the answer to be effective. Other times we simply want relief — a moment of peace.
The cast of four does well in conveying the characters’ emotions to the audience.
Louise, played by Angela Weeks, is provocative and vulnerable. Jonathan, played by Zach Hyman, is pure and honest.
Tom, played by Eli Kerr, is bold and determined. Mary, played by Cheyenne Stefano, is the most grounded and most in-tune — the voice of reason.
Together these characters ask who we are and what we become.
Kerr’s character makes the statement, “Happiness is boujee.”
Louise argues with him saying, “Happiness is the goal.”
The characters recognize life is short. They have things that are integral to their identity, their purpose in this life.
In a conversation with Jonathan, Louise points out, “I have my lab coat. You have the cigarettes. We all have something that defines who we are. It is integral to our growth and thriving. Without it, whatever it is, we are lost.”
Weeks shared what she thought the play was about.
“This play is ultimately about deciphering what is placebo and what is authentic in Louise’s life,” she said. “While her research involves a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study of a female arousal drug, the idea of a placebo transcends its physical form in the play and appears as a symbol in her relationships and sense of self.
“From the script, I take home that it is always important to tune in with your body, mind and relationships to make sure what you see is what’s really there, and to avoid getting caught in a lifestyle filled with placebos.”
Weeks believes Gannon community members should come see “Placebo” because “they are guaranteed to relate to it in one way or another and to take home an applicable message that may cause them to make some life changes, or reevaluate a certain part of their life.”
Weeks said her favorite part of the process in preparing for “Placebo” was “getting to figure out the organic blocking with my other cast members. We really got to make choices as actors that were natural and authentic, and we discovered a lot about each other along the way.”
Under the direction of Melanie Vadzemnieks and the Rev. Shawn Clerkin, an associate professor and co-director of the School of Communication and the Arts, the cast brings the story to life.
They convey the truth that Louise so bluntly states, “We’re all f—– up.” But we are willing to do anything to change that.
To understand “Placebo” you have to listen and be attentive at all times. Characters’ dialogue and conversations invite us to reveal our true self to others.
The show is not gratuitous, but certainly contemporary in subject matter and presentational style.
It contains adult language and subject matter. Patrons 16 and under will only be permitted entrance with adult supervision. Please bring age verification with you to purchase tickets.
Performances are at 8 p.m. Thursday through Sunday, and at 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Reservations can be made on the Schuster website.
For those interested, the Patron of the Arts Reception will be from 6:30-7:45 p.m. Thursday in the Schuster Theatre lobby.

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