REVIEW: “From White Plains”

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Photo by Courtesy of Charlie Waitkus

“From White Plains” ran from Nov. 19-20 and Dec. 3-4 in the Helfaer Theatre.

According to the CDC, one in five high school students are bullied and 40% of high school students that identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community are bullied. People all around the country are being bullied, and sometimes so horribly that they commit suicide as a result. 

Marquette Theatre performed a full-length, no intermission play, From White Plains Nov. 30. It encompassed heavy topics like teen suicide as a product of bullying, as well as following the life of a gay couple and the former bully. 

The show follows four men in 2013 as they navigate life and try to move on from the past. The production was rated PG-13 and it shows through the language and the mentions of profound topics.

The production followed Dennis Sullivan, played by Carlos Alba, a senior in the College of Education, who released a movie about his best friend from high school, Mitchell, who committed suicide after being bullied by Ethan Rice, played by Jack McMahon, a senior in the College of Communication. Sullivan won an Oscar for his movie and publicly calls out Rice for his role in Mitchell’s suicide. Mitchell is not acted out but has a huge presence.

The set was simple, with a tan sheet backdrop that was illuminated with assorted colors. In front was a tan sofa, two black metal chairs and two black wood boxes. I thought that the set was simple and allowed the audience to be engaged in the story without any distractions.  

The first scene used crude language by entailing homophobic slurs. Although I was shocked by such vulgar language, it was needed to convey the extent that the bully Rice used when bullying Mitchell and others. 

Currently, in the world, we see a lot of bullying, especially cyberbullying, from the advancement in technology. In the play, we saw Rice get cyberbullied for his past actions through social media.

Seeing a play that encapsulates these topics touched me and made me feel for the characters. So much so that I began tearing up from the raw emotions that the actors displayed. 

The anger that the actor Alba showed through his character Sullivan was intense. Alba’s ability to access the anger resonated with me, and I also felt angry.

At the same time, I had conflicting emotions and I felt empathy for Rice, the bully, which I considered absurd. However, I noticed that two wrongs don’t make a right and Rice should not also be cyberbullied. I saw that Rice was attempting to learn from his past and fix his mistakes. It is tragic that it took a life but for some odd reason I felt for Rice and what he was going through because being young, you sometimes don’t make smart decisions when it comes to your words and actions.

This show summarized accurately the struggles that teenagers have in high school through bullying and suicide. But also captured the realities of adulthood and being in a gay relationship.  

Overall, the show was very enjoyable and educational yet the ending felt unfinished. I was left with unanswered questions like whether the characters in the play were able to move on from their past.

It’s saddening that the show did not have a full audience because people missed out on a chance to see the effects that bullying can have on a person. The show made you think twice about your words and actions because your words carry meaning and can negatively or positively impact someone’s life.

The Marquette Theatre will be performing two more shows in the upcoming spring semester, “The Importance of Being Earnest” and Detroit ’67.”

This story was written by Aiyona Calvin. She can be reached at [email protected]