Student Reaction to

Darkness at Sunset and Vine

A Novella By Ginger Mayerson

Adapted by Dr. Kelly S. Taylor, Andrea Baldwin, Andrew Calvert, Chandler Thompson, Jay Wilkinson, and Adam Wood





Students in my and some of my colleagues' classes attended our production of Darkness at Sunset and Vine.  Here is a sampling of the one page reviews they submitted:

Student #1

I attended Dr. Kelly Taylor's performance of Darkness at Sunset and Vine. I think everyone did very well. Every character was very well thought out. I think the characters were brilliant, and the actors who portrayed them were genius. For example, all of the male characters were playing more than one role. Throughout the play they were constantly switching roles as the scenes changed. I can only imagine how hard that must have been, not only to try and capture the personality of one character, but to multiple characters. I also enjoyed the comedy behind all the madness going on. I really liked the chalkboard walking across; I felt that added more humor and understanding to the piece. All the actors and actress did amazing at staying in character even through distractions. For example, many people walked in late and the noisy door was creeping they still kept in character, and even when the back board nearly fell down and Andrea saved it, nobody even laughed. That was so well played by Andrea I would have never know that it wasn't supposed to happen. I also think the music added a little bit of pop culture to the mix. The different types of songs played fit each scene nicely. Even though the guns were fake sometimes I felt like it was real. The characters did a great job at acting dead, and using the handkerchief as fake blood.

Overall, I really enjoyed watching the performance. I can tell that there was a lot of time and heart put into that performance. I think every actor and actress should will an Oscar, and Dr. Kelly Taylor should receive best director. I can't wait to see the next Communication Studies performance!

Student #2

Darkness at Sunset and Vine contained numerous elements of surprise, intrigue, and confusion which exploded onto the audience in the form of flailing body parts, splattering blood, and a Sin City-like trance. The males in the play possessed an almost acrobatic/circus-like ability to quickly morph into the required roles of any given scene, whether it be a disturbing zombie or quintessential thug. Andrea nailed the lead role as Nellie Gail in her bad-ass tone and apparel, most likely because she is already a CPS bad-ass. I found parallel qualities between the play and Garrison Keillor's Guy Noir: Private Eye, except Andrea composed both the villain, heroine, and detective making her the ultimate Femme Fatale as described in the program. Andrea's descriptive narrator style seemed to model Garrison Keillor's suave detective, although sparked with more flare. The location of Sunset and Vine seemed ironic to me, seeing as how this area is infamous for boisterous and bright nightclubs that rarely see darkness, even though the metaphoric tones of the play undoubtedly utilized the stark contrast to set the mood of the scene. Mayerson's use of actual places in LA weighed the current surface situation to a plausible future scenario that reeked of subverted issues that now plague our society. Mayerson evidently hates Bush and Republicans in general, seen in her choice to use Schwarzenegger and Jenna Bush's cloned baby, Millie, as the coveted child. The entire play seemed to exude irony; from Andrea's "Vegan" diet, to the explosion at the end that killed both Sara Lee and Millie who had encompassed the focal purpose of the play.

The collaborative cast equally utilized Performance Art in their choice of colors, music, and repetitive motions such as shooting someone to death. The cast demonstrated excellent cohesion in their portrayal of parody and other performance qualities. This cohesion was most pointedly observed in the final explosion where Nellie picked up a "motorcycle" (Adam) and, mimicking a Die Hard IV move, drove the motorcycle into the "helicopter" (the rest of the cast). I did not know whether to laugh or clap seeing as how the already confusing play only became more confounding. The blur of blood and crashing parts caught me by surprise seeing as how the entire cast had not yet been completely involved in an all out catastrophe comprising humans on other humans meant to be machines. The cast's use of space and props perfectly suited the fluid scene changes and overall feeling of entertaining horror and resembled a warming combination between the Goodfellas, Tom Raider, and Resident Evil.

Student #3

I attended Darkness at Sunset and Vine on Thursday, the first showing. The show was hard for me to understand, but I know that the show was based on a book written by Ginger Mayerson. Our fellow classmates did a fabulous job sending the message across about their feelings towards the U.S. government. This show used many elements that helped create the reality of the story. I am going to talk about the use of characters, props, and space which made this a unique performance to watch.
The use of characters in this performance demonstrated four men and one girl. They dressed as if they were ready to fight anytime. The girl, Andrea was the overall narrator and acted like the boss of everyone. She was extremely witty and tough, but at the same time she made the performance have humor. The guys played multiple roles which made the performance confusing to follow, but I could see what was going on based on their use of actions.

The props the characters used were very creative. I loved how the characters incorporated the guns and the red handkerchiefs to represent blood. I also thought that Kevin carrying across the sign to show how many people were dead gave a huge visual effect on the audience. The props overall helped me understand the message the characters were sending.

The characters had to work in an extremely small performance space and I think they did a great job using every inch of space. With all the shootings going on, the characters had to fly everywhere to act like they were dead. I am sure they practiced a lot so they knew where to land dead. Overall, I really enjoyed this performance and it was extremely creative.

Student #4

I loved this post-apocalyptic bloodbath that featured a strong, steamy lead character portrayed by Andrea Baldwin. She was magnificent. The entire cast was great, but her performance in particular was fearless.

Darkness at Sunset and Vine gave the audience a glimpse of a grim, dirty world in the not so distant future. This production was certainly meant to be enjoyed and to entertain, but the strong rhetoric was also intended to provoke thought and warn the audience of a slope this country is sliding down at a rapid pace. They masterfully used references to current policy in the United States to illustrate the possible catastrophic results that seem only a baby step away if policy does not change dramatically. I am sure this production was a cold bucket of water thrown down on the sleeping audience forcing them to wake from their slumber of ignorance.

I had a great time watching this performance of heroes and villains where the line between the two is obscured by the need to survive. Our hero, Miss Baldwin, was also a mass murdering lone sociopath who claimed, I believe, sixty victims. She can victimize me any day.

Student #5

I attended the first showing of Darkness at Sunset and Vine. It is based on the novel by Ginger Mayerson. The play was set in Los Angeles, after the fall of the U.S. government. Since the play itself was a little confusing to me, I am going to write about how it used the elements of space, characters and props to produce a very interesting performance.

The space the cast had to work with was very small, but they utilized every inch of it. During certain scenes, like when the main character was being chased by hitmen, or when she was chasing them, they would use almost the entire space. They would also use the space to change scenes. When the main character would be outside of her apartment, buying food, she would walk a few steps to another part of the "stage" and she was in her apartment.

The cast was made up of five members. Andrea always played the same character, but the four guys played multiple roles. This sometimes made it a little confusing to follow. One minute, they were lying dead on the floor, the next minute they would be up playing another character. They would change characters by changing the sounds of their voices.

There were few props used in the play, but they were very effective. The main props were the toy guns. They were used in almost every single scene. If they were not being used, they were always visible on Andrea. Another effective prop was the red rags. Every time someone was shot, they would throw out red rags, depicting blood.

Student #6

Darkness at Sunset is a performance involving students from the University of North Texas. The director is Kelly Taylor along with the cast traveled to Arkansas to perform in front of a body of students from other schools. The sunset play was an instant hit. Each individual watching only reported positive things about the play. First, the play was unique bringing in minimal staging techniques. For example, the stage consisted of the cast, one chair and four or five toy guns. This helped to keep the focus on the characters. The lack of staging really helped the audience focus on the words as well, and each person was able to create his or her own seen of what is going on. This is great because some members of the audience felt the play was poking fun at the President and secret service men, while others felt this play was more of movie and this one person was in a world full of zombies.

A second feature positively seen in the play took place during the transitions of scenes. We knew a change was occurring because a person representing a sexy ring girl holding a cardboard sign walked across the stage. However, instead of having numbers on the sign, a special make up of words were written to keep the audience entertained. For each transition, funny sayings were thrown on to stage, For example, during one scene a number of different people were supposed to be killed or injured. A woman was the killer, so the sign said, "Killing them softly with her gun." Clearly the saying is from a popular nineties song.

While the language is mature and many elements display negative views geared toward democracy I find this performance to be very funny and for anyone who needs a good laugh.