Beginning to Mean Something: Reviewing ‘Double Feature,’ ‘Endgame’

Zach Barr, Theater Columnist

I’m of a strong opinion that theater should primarily be for the audience. Why else would you invite them to come and watch? You can be the most interesting, the most intelligent, the most boundary-pushing and edgy piece of theater, but if it’s all for the benefit of the actors, what’s the point in making people pay to come see it? For gloating purposes?

This was my fear when I heard about The Waa-Mu show. Not just this year’s incarnation, “Double Feature at Hollywood and Vine,” but the process in general. With more than 60 people writing a musical, Waa-Mu could very easily turn into a sort of self-congratulatory showcase of student talent with no intent to entertain the audience. The fact that previous Waa-Mu outings before this year were mostly song cycles did not help my opinion of it.

Thus, it is with great relief that I announce I did enjoy “Double Feature,” and it did keep its audience in mind. It may have had a bloated plot, poorly-written dialogue and a score of mostly replaceable songs, but it did think of the audience throughout.

I could write for pages upon pages about things that are wrong with “Double Feature:” the lack of resemblance between “twins” Communication juniors Kyle Sherman and Carly Cozad, the pointlessness of Communication junior Zach Piser’s character and his “Tuesday Song,” the meaninglessness of the song “After the Credits Roll”  considering that credits ran before films until the 1950s, etc. But really, with nearly ten times as many writers on music than on dialogue, I sense plot is not a high priority for Waa-Mu.

Which makes sense. This is, as mentioned, their first true attempt at a book musical. It reminds me, appropriately, of the many movie musicals of the era “Double Feature” is discussing. In the golden age of Hollywood, stars and composers sold tickets much more reliably than plot did. There may be no reason for Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor to start dancing, but you just have to admire when they do. That’s the Waa-Mu show: a big, colorful ball of yarn that completely unravels if you try to delve into it any further than you should.

But I suppose the polar opposite might be “Endgame,” the ninth annual Jones Residential College show, which also played last weekend. For the uninitiated, the Jones Show is an annual performance put on by the residential college, which typically showcases the various artistic talents — music, dance, painting, etc. — of the residents, beyond just theater.

Naturally, then, was the decision of the director, Communication freshman Maxwell Abner, to choose Samuel Beckett’s absurdist comedy “Endgame,” which has four actors, only one female character, no music, minimal set and an entire production team of twelve people.

To be absolutely fair to Abner and his eleven disciples, “Endgame” was actually quite good. The absurdist humor was well handled, and I enjoyed the performances by all four actors (in particular Weinberg freshman Liam Sunde as Clov). It’s just that “Endgame” is not a particularly engaging show. It’s dense, hard to comprehend at first viewing and does nothing to showcase the many talents of it sets out to represent. I can talk about how interesting it was, but non-theater types probably found it confusing.

I suppose it’s a question of preference. Would you like entertaining, but not complex? See “Double Feature.” The reverse? “Endgame.”

“The Waa-Mu Show: Double Feature at Hollywood and Vine” runs until May 11 at Cahn Auditorium.

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