I recently had the pleasure of attending the first showing of Rowan Lab Theatre’s limited run of “Perfect Arrangement” by American playwright, Topher Payne. Senior theater major, Elliot Colahan, made his directorial debut with this show with assistance from fellow senior, Public Relations and Theater Arts dual-major, Erica Gerold. The stage was managed by freshman Grace Hoeltje who also made her Rowan debut in this role.
“Perfect Arrangement” takes place in the spring of the 1950s during the Red Scare — when America’s fear of communism was at an all-time high. While government official Ted Sunderson, played by junior Juptej Singh, is attending a dinner with his wife Kitty Sunderson, played by sophomore Shayla Moon Hermann, he asks two subordinates, Bob Martindale and Norma Baxter — played by freshman Bella Stotts, and junior Alec Lacher — to weed out any potential security risks inside the company. These security risks range from communistic intentions to “sexual deviants,” — in other words, homosexuals.
What Ted Sunderson isn’t aware of is that, in reality, Bob is married to Norma’s “husband” Jim Baxter, played by sophomore Jake Kantrowitz, and Norma is married to Bob’s “wife” Millie Martindale, played by junior Skye Maldonado.
When the eyes of the world are watching, the Baxters and Martindales are disguised as “ideal” heterosexual couples, but when they’re finally alone they can be their true selves.
Their secret is threatened when decisions in Millie’s past come full circle and her former lover Barbara Grant, played by sophomore Sarah-Cate Ogden, threatens to ruin the life that everyone worked so hard to build.
“It’s a serial comedy with a sitcom type of vibe but as it comes along it gets more dramatic and serious,” said Colahan.
That statement left me very confused, but as soon as the play started I understood exactly what he meant. The set of the play was exactly like a sitcom-style living room and the actors constantly made jokes that made the audience fill the room with laughter. A moment later, the room would fall silent as the audience became glued to the drama unfolding.
The actors really made this play a special one. You could tell how much this play meant to everyone involved. Every laugh and emotional moment throughout the play allowed the viewer to really feel each emotion that was portrayed.
“As a gay person, being a part of ‘Perfect Arrangement’ has meant so much to me,” said Kantrowitz. “I get to tell the story of some of the hardships the LGBT community had to face during the early 20th century.”
Other cast members felt similar impacts that their roles have had, not only on the LGBT community but on themselves as well.
“This play means a lot to me. It’s about understanding that queer individuals are all at different levels of being out due to social pressures,” Stotts said. “Personally, this role has changed me in many ways. This role has taught me to speak up, especially with how much fear the government has caused this last year.”
In his directing debut, Colahan wanted to leave a lasting impression on all the audience members in attendance.
“I wanna expose them to an era in American history that we don’t get to learn,” Colahan said. “We learn about the Red Scare but not about the Lavender Scare which is just as important and I wanna expose everyone to that.”
After watching the entire two-hour show I can say, without a doubt, that Colahan succeeded in his goal and exposed me to a time period I was not aware of before watching this play. This play opened my eyes to the hardships the LGBTQ+ community was going through during this time and I’m excited to see Elliot Colahan’s future work.
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