A Magical and Deadly Study of Attempted Love
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(I try to love you as best I can)
By Katie Jacobsen
“I can’t be friends with you, just so you know,” the ageless and peerless unwashed girl atop a rusting jungle-gym warns young Oskar (Caoilin O’Conner ’20). These ten words, defying their wary and lonely intentionality, are what spark the budding romance between the adolescent Oskar and the mysterious Eli (Samantha Fleishman ’20). Let the Right One In, originally a Swedish novel and film by John Ajvide Lindqvist, and adapted for the stage by Jack Thorn, tackles a vast array of subjects from love to bullying to alcoholism, and tells a haunting and magical tale about a boy, his bullies, and the vampiric girl who saves him. Using a cast of 13 actors, visiting director Rebecca Marzalek-Kelly created a beautifully haunting world punctuated with violence and love.
The older we get, the more we come to realize that love is not an easy or simple thing. Whether it’s romantic love, familial love, or the love shared between friends, it is often difficult to find the honesty and truth needed to deal with love in a healthy way. Thorne’s text may seem to be a surface-level teen love story; however, it ultimately throws its audience into the dark world of attempted love. The audience is shown a strained relationship between Mum (Ziggy Schulting ’18), a single mother with an alcohol problem, and Oskar, the troubled outcast of a protagonist; the failing love between the passionate Håkan Kolmstun (Maximillian LoSardo ’20) and Eli as a counterpoint; and, of course, the budding relationship between young Oskar and Eli. Additionally, we see Police Commissioner Halmberg (Catherine Sullivan ’21) and her passion and devout duty to the citizens of her town, and the failed relationship between Oskar and his Dad (David Schechter ’18), two boys who have no idea how to communicate or empathize with each other. It’s through these relationships that we see what’s at the heart of Thorne’s text. Love is difficult. Love is complicated. Love is disturbing. Love is unwanted. Love is tired. Love is timeless. Love is mortal. Love is immortal. Love is a sacrifice. And sometimes, to love is to die.
It is impossible to discuss Let the Right One In without focusing on its superb technical and scenic design elements. I found myself in a forest. I walked along the mulch, surrounded by a warm haze and birch trees, blue light streaming down from the catwalk. The trees seemed to span upwards and outwards for miles, breaking the logical boundaries of the Black Box’s brick walls. Scenic Designer, Nola Donkin ’18, filled the Black Box with dozens of individual birch trees, each one serving its own purpose. Whether they existed to hold up a swing, act as an expensive Fabergé egg, provide a safe spot to hide behind, or as a frightening obstacle, the trees formed another ensemble, outside the limits of the human cast members.
The mystery and danger surrounding the trees was strengthened by the talents of Lighting Designer and Technical Director, Jared Klein. Klein used light tactfully. Throughout the show, the space sustained a general darkness, underscored by minimalistic rays of light. Focusing on the use of shadows, Klein used a harsh light/dark dichotomy to further Marzalek-Kelly’s haunting world. The moments when it was impossible to tell if movements were shadows or human bodies were enough to keep the audience members on edge. From faces popping up in singular beams of light, to short blackouts that allowed actors to make startling entrances, Klein’s lighting design taught the audience to never trust what they thought they could see.
Adding to the mystery and spectacle of Let the Right One In was Marzalek-Kelly’s decision to develop ensemble moments which served as both accents to scenes and transitional movement pieces. Although every cast member had a highlighted speaking role, they all doubled as a cohesive ensemble. Bundled up and seeming to come out from the trees themselves, the ensemble gave life to the forest. They twirled around the tree trunks, hid behind them, and hurled snowballs at each other. During one poignant moment, underscored with tasteful ambient sound design by Max Helburn ’18, the ensemble hid their bodies behind the birch trees, only showing us their hands as they floated their fingers up and down the tree trunk, mimicking the rhythm of breathing. At this moment, the ensemble and the forest had joined as one, giving the audience the impression that every single one of us was part of the forest—there was no real way out.
The Skidmore Theatre Department and Marzalek–Kelly could not have picked a more opportune time to produce this play. Our society has seen an influx of adolescent suicides due specifically to bullying in and outside of school. Too many educators act just as ignorantly and blindly as Mr. Avila (Josh Karen ’18), Oskar’s gym teacher does. This is a play with an urgent social message. It conveys the cry for help from every child who has been picked on and beaten down. Let the Right One In demands that those whose voices mimic Oskar’s be heard. It demands that we pay attention.
Stage Adaptation by: Jack Thorne
Director: Rebecca Marzalek-Kelly
Assistant Directors: Rachel Karp ’18 & Sam Grant ’18
Scenic Design: Nola Donkin ’18
Lighting Design: Jared Klein
Sound Design: Max Helburn ’18
Costume Design: Alyssa Opishinski
Make-Up Design: Rebecca Rovezzi ’18
Stage Manager: Chloe Brush ’18
Cast: Rinzin Alling ’20 (Micke), Samantha Fleishman ’20 (Eli), Jake Kanengiser ’18 (Jonny), Josh Karen ’18 (Mr. Avila), Maximillian LoSardo ’20 (Hakan/Jimmy), Jessie March ’21 (Torkel/Stefan), Kirsten Mulrenan ’18 (Kurt), Caoilin O’Connor ’20 (Oskar), Kara Powell ’18 (Nils), David Schechter ’18 (Dad/Jocke), Ziggy Schulting ’18 (Mum), Catherine Sullivan ’21 (Halmberg), Pasquale Tosto ’18 (Janne)
Crew: Jared Klein (Technical Director), JoLynn DuBois ’19 (Assistant Costume Designer), Omi Furst ’18 (Props Master), Eve Gertzman ’20 (Assistant Stage Manager), Mira Lampson Klein ’18 (Make Up Crew Head), Leah Mirani ’18 (Wardrobe Supervisor), Rebecca Schilsky ’20 (Assistant Stage Manager), Lea Tanenbaum ’19 (Assistant Lighting Designer), Goa Zhu ’19 (Costume Design Assistant)
Katie Jacobsen is a senior Theater/English major and staff writer for STLN