Ashley Mullen ’15
From Jan. 31 to Feb. 3, the Trinity College Department of Music exhibited their handpicked selection of winter shows at Garmany Hall in the Austin Arts Center. Among those shows was Cox and Box, a play also known as The Long-Lost Brothers, which was part of the trio of winter shows along with Another Antigone by A.R. Gurney and Company by Stephen Sondheim. Cox and Box, a triumviretta in one Act, contained music written by Arthur Sullivan and played live by the Stage and Musical Director, Gerald Moshell, and Davis Kim ’15, Trinity’s own virtuoso pianist.
The play involves a thrifty landlord named Sergeant Bouncer, played by Corey Trowbridge ’13, who rents a room to two different lodgers, one who works only during the day and one who works only at night, a schedule that ensures the two never cross paths and discover the truth of their double-tenanted room.
The play focused on the inadvertent meeting of the two very different main characters through clever dialogue and comedic musical numbers, which were artfully performed by Austin Tewksbury ’13 playing James John Cox, the hatter who works during the day, and Brandon Serafino ’14 playing John James Box, the printer who works during the night.
Just like Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest with humorous, witty banter between two English gentlemen in the 19th century, Cox and Box displayed an ease of dialogue that was accentuated by the Trinity actors, whose proper English accents and spiffy Victorian era costumes gave the play some life. With theatrical flourishes characteristic of Tewksbury and Serafino, the main actors flew through solo melodies, ironic exchanges, and lyrical duets, with a straight-faced seriousness of comedic levity.
Although admission was free, reservations were strongly recommended by the department. The fact that some attendees could not find seating is evidence of the play’s anticipated success. Performing in front of an audience made up of mostly drama connoisseurs of both young and old ages, the three actors were set to face an experienced crowd not to be easily impressed with a flimsy performance. The three Trinity students rose to the occasion, keeping the audience engaged and laughing throughout the 45-minute production, a feat that undoubtedly surprised even the stage and light crew.
The play had eight musical numbers that were presented with the skill, talent, and enthusiasm unique to Trinity’s theater productions. From the beginning of the first musical number, Trowbridge, playing Sergeant Bouncer, enraptured audience members, getting up close and personal to front-row dwellers whose reactions varied from terrified surprise to good-humored laughter. This lodging-house keeper, delving into songs about his military reminiscences, set an atmosphere of tongue-in-cheek humor throughout the theater.
The songs not only carried the storyline along, but also contained tenors of hilarity and absurdity in addressing a random assortment of subjects. In fact, Serafino’s first musical number was a song about bacon, and Trowbridge began the play with a song that repeated “rataplan,” a bizarre word that I heard quite a few audience members questioning the meaning of between periods of laughter.
But the deep, baritone voices were directly on par with the brilliant vocalists on Broadway, and all three actors wove lyrical tunes, lovely and at times absurd, to carry the storyline to a conclusion that was both ironic and hilarious in its improbability. After agitated, yet comical choreography and songs of droll accusations and hysterical bonding between the two gentlemen, the play concluded with the same musical number as at the beginning, giving the performance a feeling of resolute finish despite the ludicrous solution to the double-tenanted room.
The audience rewarded them with a thunderous applause hesitant to end.