Pooja Savansukha ’15
Even considering the International Hip Hop Festival captivating much of the campus’ attention, not only did Caitlin Crombleholme’s ’13 senior thesis performance “Basil and Cleopatra” stand out given its distinctively 20s genre but it also celebrated the creativity and skillful direction of one of our talented student artists at Trinity.
“Basil and Cleopatra” is a short story written by the renowned F. Scott Fitzgerald. Crombleholme adapted this story into a theatric piece that was performed on Friday and Saturday night at the Garmany Hall in Austin Arts Center. The cast, which consisted of Lindsay Walker ’13, Kevin Rich ’13, Leah Novak’ 13, Chanel Erasmus ’15, Heath Harckam ’15, Forrest Robinette ’16 and Tim Crombleholme, delivered an extremely promising performance that captured the full attention of the audience and provided a great deal of humor throughout the performance.
Basil has been a recurrent character in several of Fitzgerald’s short stories and his persona is essentially an embodiment of Fitzgerald himself. “Basil and Cleopatra” is one of the last stories written about Basil and it depicts him as a rising freshman at Yale, transitioning into a new phase in his life, particularly as he enters his first romantic infatuation with a Miss Erminie Gilberte Labouisse Bibble.
The story unfolds to reveal Basil’s newfound realizations of the idea of love and itscomplications. Crombleholme’s adaptation of the story intended to “perform every word of Fitzgerald’s timeless prose about youth, love, and ambition.” The inclusion of a narrator (played by Lindsay Walker ’13) retained the well-constructed phrases and sentences that are the central charm of Fitzgerald’s works. The dialogue successfully reflected Fitzgerald’s time period of the 1920s and his writing style, giving the audience a visual representation of the actual short story.
Garmany Hall provided an intimate setting for the performance as the audience was seated very close to the stage on two sides. This allowed the characters to occasionally weave in between and behind the audiences, inviting every spectator to be engaged in the world of Basil Lee. As the audiences entered to take their seats, the background music set the mood and gave everyone a preview of what to expect.
The narrator sat by a bar on stage and went about her bartender activities but her appearance and dressing immediately resonated with the time period the play is set in. She played the an omnipresent role through her constant presence on stage as well as her subtle but significant interaction with the other characters. Her role transcended one of a mere narrator as she almost appeared to be the catalyst during climactic moments. The play began with her pouring a drink for Basil (played by Kevin Rich ’13) and ending with her presenting the book she was narrating from to him. Her elegant postures and powerful narration played a crucial role in maintaining the setting of the play. While her presence was acknowledged by other actors, it was implied that she was playing a separate role within the story. Her role was Crombleholmes’ creation in the adaptation and it fascinated the audience.
The cast did an excellent job in living up to the elaborate descriptions that the narrator gave throughout the course of the performance. Their accents and body language came off as extremely authentic and while there were particular actions and expressions that were overdramatized, they were by no means over compensating the portrayal of their characters. They brought a great deal of life to the play, transforming it from a story enjoyed by many readers into a play enjoyed by many viewers. Rich’s love-struck portrayal of Basil, Harckham’s extravagant dance moves and expressions, Erasmus’s flamboyant body language, Novak’s depiction of the conjoint pretensions and naivety of Minnie’s character and most hilarious, Robinette’s drunkenness were some of the highlights of the performance. The actors all did a fabulous job in delivering the characteristics of the individuals they embodied with minimal use of props. The use of the space as well as of light and shadow actions were well executed as the combined delivery of dialogue and the physical movements of the actors culminated in an outstanding performance. There were many memorable moments during the performance but the two particular scenes that induced the most laughter needless to say were the football playoff between LeMoyne and Basil that consisted of slower bodily movements to portray the athletic actions and the scene where the actors danced for the audience.
The performance was sold out, on both nights and members from audience walked out with smiles on their face, recapping their favorite moments.