The Daily Northwestern

A broken version of the American dream

Jordana Mishory

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Flinging open the grimy beige door of the refrigerator, Speech junior Martha Marion examines the contents of its shelves and drawers, only to find that they’re barren.

“We’re not broke so you don’t have to hide,” she hollers at the food that isn’t there.

The absent food remains silent. The inside of the fridge remains empty. The outside of the fridge remains grimy.

Thus is the world in Sam Shepard’s play “Curse of the Starving Class,” where the catalysts for change are alcohol and duplicity, tough love governs relationships and stories are told to a maggot-infested sheep. And Marion’s character, Emma, longs to leave it all.

“She’s never gone anywhere, never been encouraged to follow her dreams and most likely will never go anywhere,” Marion said of her character. “She’s trapped in a world that she hates.”

Set in the yellow-walled kitchen of a dilapidated farm in Southern California, this world includes Emma’s alcoholic, violent father Weston (Speech senior Brad Akin), neurotic mother Ella (Speech senior Morgan Reis) and older brother Wesley (Speech sophomore Zachary Michael Gilford).

“The play revolves around these various family members struggling to chase after the American dream, and how they fuck each other over in their pursuit,” said director Quinton Johnson, a Speech senior. “No matter how hard they struggle they can never seem to attain what they want.”

According to Akin, Weston’s American dream is to own a piece of a land and to raise his family. He said it’s hard to relate to the simplicity of this dream.

“We’re in such cushy situations. I mean, we’re here at Northwestern with great opportunities,” Akin said. “What if we didn’t have that instant access to opportunities? Weston and his family don’t.”

The set emphasizes the characters’ economical and psychological depression.

“Lots of plays in Shanley find it hard to cover up the fact that they’re performing in a run-down shack,” Johnson said. “Our play takes place in a run-down shack, so we are, in essence, accentuating the qualities of our performing space to go with our motif.”

Stage manager Joanna Simmons, a Speech freshman, said the scenery was meant to show a bright, beautiful home that has disintegrated into a pit where the characters merely exist.

“We spent hours building the set, and then we spent hours dirtying it up and breaking it. We’re not even planning on sweeping,” she said.

Johnson wanted to display a side of America that isn’t prevalent on the North Shore.

Marion too said the play brings an awareness that this side of society exists.

“I’ve realized I don’t scream nearly as much in my real life after doing this show,” she said. nyou

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