Last Thursday night, in the raging snowstorm, the musical Lost With You drew a large crowd to Runnals Theater. There was a full house. The play, an original piece by students Katie Monteleone ’18, Joshua Lutian ’18, and Ben Brougham ’18, spanned nearly an hour long and through song, dialogue, and dance enacted the heartwarming (and heartbreaking) lives of a modern family. The primary focus of the play was Jerome, a high-school age, chess-loving kid who falls in love with another boy. His younger sister, trying to win the attention of her work-oriented, intense mother, runs a local lemonade stand, though she really wants to spend her time sewing dresses. The parents, too, have their own set of problems: the mother, Maggie Johnson, runs a successful iced tea business, yet spends too much time at her office. Her husband, Mike Johnson, spends his days in their garage, inventing contraptions like book-page-turners yet is incredibly attentive to their children.
The play began in the kitchen of the Johnsons’ home, at their breakfast table. Slowly, the whole family gathered in the room and, as the others readied themselves for the day, each took a turn explaining, in song, their own anxieties. The spotlight lit the singer while the rest of the family faded into the shadows, emphasizing that despite their togetherness in physical location, each wrestled with their own set of personal dilemmas and self-searching questions. The aloneness of the center stage singer set the tone for the rest of the play, as each member of the family spun away from one another, searching for themselves and unsure how to relate to one another. Cut to scene three, and another character is introduced: Nick, a chess-loving and athletic new student from Chicago. Nick joins Jerome’s chess club one afternoon, and their love story begins.
While the characterizations of all actors were strong, Christian Papadellis ’18’s and Joshua Lutian ’18’s portrayals of Nick Mullens and Jerome Johnson and their relationship were particularly noteworthy. Lutian embodied the perfect mixture of apprehension and awkwardness when meeting the athletic-looking newcomer in the unpopular after-school club. His stiff gestures, short sentences, and spare language — in their initial scene and in the many after — accentuated his hesitance to let another person into his stratosphere. Contrasting the more reserved nature of Jerome, Papadellis’s carriage onstage — the jaunty walk, eagerness to introduce himself to new faces — exuded confidence. The tension between the two personalities emphasized their different stages of growth and set up the foundation for the relationship to really open up Nick’s world. The dialogue between the two incited laughter at the appropriate moments and felt realistic, pure, honest and emotional. They captured love in its early stages remarkably well.
Monteleone, the show’s writer, called the play a “proof of concept”, meaning that these first performances of the show are not the play in its final form but rather are stagings to show that the concept of Lost With You works. At intervals throughout the play, between scenes, video of the choreographers, directors, playwright and music writers were visible on the backdrop. Each discussed their goals for the play, the process of working behind-the-scenes on the show and, oftentimes, explained the decisions behind the choreography and staging of the next few scenes. The explanations were insightful and exposed the humanity behind the choreographed, scripted piece, as well as helping the audience to recognize elements of the play — for example, the changes in lighting that occurred when a character underwent a moment of self-realization — that might otherwise go unnoticed. The intrusion of the show’s makers at choice moments throughout the play also underscored the work-in-progress state of the show.
At the end of the show, after the bows and curtain calls, the audience was invited to share their thoughts and questions on the play. Brit Biddle ’19 expressed her admiration of the play, saying “even though I don’t specifically identify with any of the issues the characters faced, I really related to their more general message about the importance of finding yourself. I can’t believe that such a beautiful, emotion-evoking piece was written by my peers.” One audience member’s comment captured the impact of the play well — speaking about the multi-layered nature of the plot, he said, “different generations will understand different messages. One of the most impressive pieces of the play, I think, is that every storyline is strong, so everyone in the audience will have something to take away.” In my opinion, Lost With You was a well-executed masterpiece, a beautiful enactment of young love, family trials, and search for self that really does have a message for everyone.