Robert Lockaby Staff Writer
Opening to a bright pink kitchen with an upside- down cherry blossom tree, as “Time After Time” plays in the background, Eastern’s rendition of “Pluto” instilled a calming, but kind of unsettling mood throughout the auditorium. Cerberus, a three headed dog, sits in a dog bed and greets an out of breath college student, Bailey, whose breath quickly turns into maniacal laughter. Right away, the audience can tell that this will not be a happy and upbeat play.
This show is meant to provoke the audience, and make them uncomfortable enough to question their reality. With just one act, Steve Yockey’s “Pluto” gets the audience to reflect on the anxiety that is currently felt in America. It contains a lot of raw emotions but can also be calming with subtle dark humor. The story portrays an unraveling of events, as Elizabeth Miller, Bailey’s mother, is stuck in time trying to piece together what happened to her son.
“Pluto” offers a social commentary on students’ environments both at school and at home that everyone can relate to; it really hits close to home for a lot of the audience. The commentary is further assisted by sound effects that give a demonic and foreboding tone.
These emphasize the suspenseful moments in the play as the events of what has happened come to light. Meanwhile, the background lights shift colors to project moods, flashing red for death or a light blue for calmness that is meant to lull the audience into a false sense of comfort.
One aspect of the performance that truly blew the audience away was the acting. Mason Beiter, as Bailey Miller, exemplifies the raw emotion of the play. He takes on the role of a college student who is an outcast and emotionally bullied by the people around him. Even though his actions were very inexcusable, the audience cannot help themselves but to empathize with him. In a monologue towards the end of the play, he expresses anger, confusion, and regret. Miller indicates that no matter how angry a person gets at the world because of bullying that they endure, frustration can never fill their hole of loneliness and sadness.
Beiter’s interactions with both Meghan Campbell, as Maxine, Bailey’s childhood friend, and Elizabeth Heaney, as Elizabeth Miller, feel like real life dynamics between actual people. Bailey and Maxine are friends who treat each other poorly, which is very relatable nowadays. They show a conflicting relationship and are on the verge of falling in love, however, this closeness comes to a screeching halt when Maxine embarrasses Bailey in front of his class. Their chemistry shows that friends cannot always be trusted to have your back. Meanwhile, the dynamic between Elizabeth and Bailey is very accurate to that of a mother and son relationship. Bailey does not feel that he can open up to his mom about his feelings and really share what is haunting him. Elizabeth is a very caring mother who wants to get to know her son and tries to show him love even when he does not accept it. This relationship is something every person can connect with, as it shows the struggles of kids and parents trying to talk with one another.
Rachel Pontbriand portrays Cerberus and is the moral compass of the story. She helps connect the themes and events that have taken place. Supporting Pontbriand as a moral guide throughout the play is Andrew Rich who plays the Grim Reaper himself. Constantly repeating Corinthians 13:1, Rich plays Death as a smooth-talking, laid back, nicely dressed gentleman who just wants to help the dead into the afterlife and even gets Cerberus to help people through their grief.
Overall, “Pluto” was an enjoyable audience experience with a lot of symbolism. Even if it does not light up anyone’s day, it serves to provoke people into helping one another and even themselves when things are not going well in life.