Theatre Review: Marvin’s Room

Marvin’s Room, Regent University’s latest theatre production, has revived the life of theatre at Regent. Staged in the versatile yet intimate Studio Theatre, this dramedy had the entire audience laughing with its opening scene. The rest of the play did not disappoint. It is a rare find for a stage production to so genuinely represent the struggle of family strains while not withholding the slapstick comedy that is reflected in everyday life. Yet again, Director Eric Harrell showcased  his skill in his 18th year as part of the Regent theatre faculty. The artistic brilliance behind the creation of this production has made Marvin’s Room stand out as a heartfelt reminder of what the theatre arts can be. 

The writing in Marvin’s Room is a breath of fresh air.  Written by American playwright Scott McPherson, the play follows two sisters, Bessie and Lee, who have been out of contact for nearly 20 years. Bessie has been taking care of their father, Marvin, and Aunt Ruth in Florida. Lee resides in Ohio with her two sons, Hank and Charlie. When Bessie receives distressing news from the doctor, Lee and the kids make an appearance in the land of palm trees, plastic flamingos, and cockroaches. The questions, fears, and revelations ebb and flow through the seamlessly executed scenes. Even Disney World cannot escape being dragged into the family drama. 

Marilyn B. Bailey led the show with her passionate yet gentle portrayal of Bessie. But her acting skills were not the only impressive facet of the actress on display. She also designed the exceptional costumes for every Marvin’s Room character. Tara Duffy has recently performed alongside Bailey in Daisy Pulls It Off and Julius Caesar. This time, however, she undertook the challenging role of Bessie’s estranged sister, Lee. Jaydon Davidson’s performance as the severely ill Marvin had audience members in awe as they left the theatre. Grace Perry brought her contagious joy to the humorous role of Aunt Ruth, who cannot seem to stay away from her soap operas. Vincent Harrill II impresses crowds with every stage appearance, this time with  his convincing portrayal of Hank, the troubled teenager trying to find his way in life. This role was unlike his recents; Vincent’s skillful acting was amplified through this show. Samuel Paul, a film student making his Regent theatrical debut, gave the audience stitches as the well-meaning but inapt Dr. Wally. His brilliant venture into theatre acting is an inspiring reminder for all students to expand their horizons and dive into new experiences and environments. Gwyneth Stack, a freshman also appearing in her first Regent production, solidly executed the role of Dr. Charlotte. Graham Derby is a local sixth grader who rounded out the cast as Charlie. The inclusion of such a talented young person brought an additional layer of vibrancy and realism to the production. 

But, of course, a play is much more than the actors on stage. Stage Manager Blair Coats did a phenomenal job ensuring a smooth and delightful show. She was assisted by Rachel Wambeke, who also made an impressive acting appearance as the Retirement Home Director. Dave Foster has nailed the scenic and technical design for yet another production. The large flats that created the backdrop and majority of the set were covered in scrim. Jeff Brangan is responsible for the various colored lights that were shone through them to draw the audience into the setting of home, a hospital, or the happiest place on earth. Wesley Dietz led the sound design. The students who worked on the set development, costume and wig creation, props, lights, and sound should be proud of the art they presented. 

Every individual involved in the production was vital to unlocking the potential of Marvin’s Room. As the characters wrestle with questions of family and commitment, the audience is also encouraged to ponder where they have placed their priorities in life. Bessie’s realization that her entire life has been marked by loving others and receiving love herself occurs at the height of the drama. Without preaching to the viewers, Marvin’s Room presents an encouraging reminder to sacrificially love others and live without fear even in the most uncertain of circumstances. 

Regent’s production of Marvin’s Room is available to audiences for one more weekend! Performances will be at 7:30 pm on February 24th and 25th and at 2:30 pm on the 25th and 26th. A Talk Back with the cast is available directly following the Friday evening performance. Theatre is meant to provoke consideration and inspire action, and Marvin’s Room does just that.