The student-produced play “Pieces,” which ran Friday and Saturday, was yet another fine work courtesy of Butler University’s theater department.
The short work, written and directed by fifth-year theater major Lauren Thorne, follows a young woman fighting the pain of a debilitating disability in the hospital while her mind tries to escape its harsh reality.
Thorne herself is disabled, and she used her own experiences to color the narrative.
“‘Pieces’ is kind of a multimedia representation of my constantly fluctuating journey,” she wrote in her program notes.
She said the play was a great personal achievement.
“Being who I am, I knew myself pretty well, but [‘Pieces’] has brought me to a place where I actually appreciate myself,” Thorne said. “There are stories only I can tell.”
Thorne, in her debut as a playwright, has crafted “Pieces” into a succinct, relevant and personal exploration into the mind’s relationship with the body during times of stress.
In a wise decision, Thorne wrote three “characters” to represent the young woman: one playing the Mind, another the Body, with a third being a synthesis of the two who exists as an outside voice.
Alaina Bartkowiak, a sophomore vocal performance major who played the Body, said it was a challenge to get all three actors to function as one person.
“We had to work to understand each other’s thoughts,” she said.
In the end, the actors were supremely successful. Their chemistry and timing allowed Thorne’s witty dialogue to come across marvelously clear.
Indeed, the cleverness of the play was its most impressive feature. The set design, with puzzling elements like a deflated birthday balloon draped over the hospital bed and clothespins hanging from the ceiling, was extremely well integrated in the script. Each element served its own function in developing the characters and advancing the narrative.
Each element was so well- incorporated that the play might have benefited from more ambiguity and non-sequitur elements.
Quinn Leary, a junior theater major, said the play demonstrated Thorne’s characteristic wit.
“I am so proud of Lauren,” he said. “This is the perfect capstone to her time here.”
The play also incorporated large amounts of audio and visual material, with the latter projected onto the set from above.
Despite Thorne’s craft, however, the pacing of the play was lackluster. The main conflict, the Mind wrestling with the idea of leaving the Body forever to escape pain, was tempered by an awkward stage movement scene and the absence of a scene showing the condition of the Body without its Mind.
The pacing muddled any sense of a real climax, which made the ending, when the Mind returns to the Body, seem extremely sudden. More development of the climactic and resolution sections would have helped bring the play’s end up to par with its beginning.
That said, Thorne and the cast and crew have much to be proud of.
While not perfect, it foreshadows great works that will be exactly as Thorne envisions them: “living, breathing experiences enveloping and holding captive the audience.”