Rowan Theatre and Dance’s “Our Lady of 121st Street” was a Success

Playbill cover for "Our Lady of 121st Street." Photo via Rowan Department of Dance and Theatre.

Rowan University’s Department of Theater and Dance presented “Our Lady of 121st Street” by Stephen Adly Guirgis from Feb. 24-26, and it was nothing short of amazing. 

The story focused on a funeral home in despair after discovering that the body of Sister Rose had been stolen from the viewing room. The story takes you into the lives of former students who were deeply impacted by Sister Rose, and although this death is tragic, the characters have a whimsical way of dealing with their grief. 

Each character is facing their own personal challenges, and as the story progresses, you see how everyone deals with grief differently. When the play began, the audience was met with “Vic” kneeling at Sister Rose’s casket…pantsless. Nathan Fitch gave a phenomenal performance as Vic. The audience could understand the feeling of being dismayed and confused, but also angry. Anger was a common emotion amongst the characters.

“Vic used anger, frustration, and biases as a scapegoat to understand the world around him. He lives in a misconstrued reality and has a hard time processing this traumatic experience,” Nathan said.

The show was not for the weak, so if you aren’t a fan of curse words, it’s best for you to sit this one out– these New Yorkers didn’t hold back. 

“I googled how to do a Staten Island accent and saw that most audible pauses like ‘um’ and ‘ah’ were replaced with curse words, and you speak in a melody,” Nathan said.

The show touched on a few sensitive topics, like closeted gay men and the rift in friendships that may happen when your friend has sex with your husband. The show also touched on how a disabled person can have their kindness taken advantage of. 

An element of the production that stood out was the music played in between scene changes, a variety of old-school hip-hop songs. However, the opening song was a different genre and helped Nathan prepare before the show.

“I do breath cycles on the calm app, look at my notes, go backstage and listen to the opening song of the show, ‘New York State of Mind,’” Nathan said.

Many students enjoyed the show, like Heather Desanto, a dance major at Rowan. 

“It’s nice to see us do things where we can laugh but also be serious. We do a lot of dramatic stuff here so it was really good to see us have some comic relief and it was nice to see such a diverse cast up there,” Heather said. 

The beginning of the story leads people to feel for these characters and have compassion for their loss, but the “woe is me” mentality starts to take hold in each character, and by the end, you are left with a bit of confusion. 

For instance, why was the priest at the bar? Why was Sonia always by herself if she came with a friend? Why was Flip so cruel to Gail? Who took Sister Rose? These are all unanswered questions and Nathan had some theories of his own.

Nathan believes that “Vic” has been in love with Sister Rose since he was a kid and is the person behind the disappearance of Sister Rose. 

The show overall was lively, and you can look forward to the next production from The Department of Theater and Dance in April.

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