Senior drama thesis projects have officially begun, and the season is off to a great start. Between Oct. 6 through Oct. 8, 2022, the first of these projects in the Drama Department have been performed in the Powerhouse Theater. “Mosquitos,” by Lucy Kirkwood, and directed by Louis Blachman ’23 was a huge success, with performances sold out each night. Senior members of the show included Clae Rountree ‘23, Theo Duclo ‘23, Lena Pepe ‘23, Balfour Clark ‘23 and Blachman, and they did not disappoint. Set in Luton, England, and then moving to Geneva, Switzerland, the actors performed the entirety of the show with accents, an impressive feat, especially considering the show ran for two-and-a-half hours.
“Mosquitos” debuted in 2017 at the National Theatre in London, UK, originally starring Olivia Colman and Olivia Williams. The show combines many ideas into one, examining themes of science, mental health, coming-of-age and so many more. There are no side characters in this narrative, and the audience can feel a connection to all of the characters, each of whom becomes a protagonist in their own way. It primarily tells the story of two sisters, one, Alice (Rountree), a scientist working on the discovery of the Higgs Boson, also known as the “God Particle,” and the other, Jenny (Pepe), a skeptic and superstitious woman who smokes, drinks and is constantly seen as less than in the eyes of their mother. Very early on, the audience learns that Jenny, who after years of trying to get pregnant, and succeeding through In-vitro Fertilization, has lost her daughter to the measles after refusing to give her the MMR vaccine due to its controversy. Following this tragic loss, she comes to stay with Alice and Alice’s smart but complicated son, Luke (Duclo).
In Blachman’s production, the cast and crew did not come to play, and they left no crumbs behind. The intense and raw emotions of scenes between Rountree and Pepe perfectly encapsulated a complicated, but loving relationship between siblings. There were moments when the house was silent in shock and awe at the force behind the two actors. In some instances, I even felt my heart drop into my chest. In the two-and-a-half hours that I was on the edge of my seat, I grew fond of the characters, completely forgetting that the people in front of me were friends I see every week, and truly believed them to be these characters that they were portraying. When an actor can make you believe they are not an actor, especially when you know them personally, that’s how you know they are talented.
The show was filled with uncomfortable moments that only made it feel more real. In the last scene between Luke, and Luke’s crush Natalie (Kalia Dunn ‘25), you could feel the audience members squirming in their seats and the empathy they had for Luke. At one point, when Duclo got down on the ground and curled up into a ball, yelling “STOP IT,” I was frozen. You could feel the pain, the embarrassment and the regret. The tension in the room was so thick, you could cut it with a knife. Sitting in the darkness of the scene change afterwards was the best kind of bad feeling, your heart racing and not knowing what would happen next.
With all that being said, there is still one more person among these cast members that absolutely captured my attention the entire time. Entering by throwing an apple off of the catwalk from above, Clark held a power over the audience throughout the whole show. Playing both The Boson as well as Alice’s boyfriend, Henri, Clark’s deeply emotional scenes with Pepe and lengthy, passionate monologues kept the audience focused in this imagined world. At one point in the show, Clark’s character broke the fourth wall, making a comment about the audience probably not following along or knowing what was happening. He even singled me out, saying, “Uh yeah, nope” as I was sitting in the front row. I felt a little personally called out, but in a good way, if that makes sense. It was so interesting to be pulled into the show through Clark’s lines, and honestly made my experience somewhat more enjoyable, to feel the fourth wall broken and feel like I was really a part of the experience.
The other cast members, Dunn, Alexandra Polur Gold ‘25, Joe Baldwin ‘24, Vi To ‘24, Yuchen Zhou ‘23 and Erin Mee ‘24 were also incredibly cast in their roles as Natalie, Karen, Alice and Jenny’s mother and the ensemble, respectively. Entering the Powerhouse and watching the ensemble of scientists walking around the stage and writing down notes in their white lab coats was an extremely eerie first glimpse at what was to come. Their roles in the show were essential to the story telling, and Blachman’s directorial vision truly came to life through this ensemble of actors, alongside many of the technical details.
Blachman’s use of lighting, projection and sound allowed for the intensity to build throughout the production, and his attention to detail, such as quick lighting cues to match actors’ movements, fit extremely well into the story telling. Liam Oley ʼ25 accompanied the show on live piano, which added to the dramatics and heightened the sense of uncertainty throughout the show, making it feel all the more high stakes. A huge shout out to the lighting and sound designers on this show, as having that amount of accuracy and storytelling expressed through such subtle details is an incredible feat.
Overall, the outcome of the first senior thesis drama project should be reason enough to believe that we are in for another great season of student productions. From the acting to the technical pieces of the show, “Mosquitos” was absolutely incredible, setting the stage for the shows yet to come from the Senior drama majors this year. Bravo to the entire cast and crew, and here’s to another great year of theater!