One of the 12 members of the “Before the Eclipse,” cast in a platinum blond wig, makes his way towards one of the exits of the stage, but stops before reaching it.
For this scene, the characters the actors play seem to change from scene to scene, the actor embodies a poet who is attempting to woo the heart of another character. To do so, he must cut off all of his luscious blond hair, aka the wig, to get a decision from the woman he has declared his love to.
In his efforts, he tried to give the woman a love potion, but after an unsuccessful attempt, he holds some of it left in a pouch in his hands. Why he, a poet, has become an inventor of potions the audience does not know, he just has.
This moment encapsulates what much of Seattle Pacific University’s Theatre Department’s winter production is: entertaining but all together confusing.
“I evaporate!” the character exclaims while throwing a pouch that once contained the love potion on the floor. Unsurprisingly, the pouch does not explode in a cloud of dust as the poet had hoped, so he generates his own explosion sound effects as he scrambles off the stage.
“Before the Eclipse,” a Russian play written by Anton Chekhov and translated by Laurence Senelick, does not follow the typical format of a play, which seems to be a trend for the SPU Theatre Program.
The plot jumps from scene to scene, much like last quarter’s “Love and Information,” and relishes in what seems like perpetual confusion of its audience. However, deviating from its predecessor, the comedic focus “Before the Eclipse” hopes to bring to life moments of extreme hilarity, and more often than not succeeds.
Though it lacks a linear plot, it tells random stories ranging from a declaration of love, to a wedding, to a town meeting, some of which are more entertaining than others
In one sequence of events, two actors take the stage before the rest of the cast and sit on a small couch tucked in the back left corner of the stage. It appears to be a therapist and her client.
The scene opens with the client balancing a large stack of boxes in his arms. He trips and the boxes scatter all over the left side of the stage. Dramatically, the client collapses into the couch and begins to describe his miserable life.
He describes what’s in the boxes, and coughs as a reaction to each powder. “Carbolic acid,” cough, “Insect powder,” cough, “Ten kopeks worth of face powder,” large build up and a small sneeze, and the audience erupts in laughter.
“My life, I assure you, stinks,” the client said.
Spanning three hours long, the scenes that lack comedic drive feel like centuries. The dialogue, which was written in the 18th century, can be dense and hard to understand, and as a result fall flat. The play itself is long and it feels long.
“Before the Eclipse” has its merits. It is funny in many moments; the twist ending is interesting enough and the selected cast of characters are more frequently charming than awkward.