Radford University theatre department tackles play about body image

A scene from the Waiting Room
Mac McMullen portrays the doctor and Madeline Murchie-Beyma plays Wanda in "The Waiting Room."

by Wesley Young

Radford University Theatre tackles the weighty issues of body image among other things in their upcoming production of Lisa Loomer’s “The Waiting Room.” This contemporary drama opens October 13 and runs October 15-18.

Shakespeare’s Hamlet famously tells an acting troupe their job is to “hold the mirror up to nature, to show virtue her own feature, scorn her own image, and the very age and body of the time his form and pressure.” Contemporary playwright Lisa Loomer steps up to Shakespeare’s challenge with “The Waiting Room,” now in production in the School of Dance and Theatre. The unusual play takes on that “age and body” of our time and pokes, prods and examines it not unlike one of the distracted doctors who appear in the play. In fact, the body is what the play is about…the body as we see it, as we treat it, as we value it.

With looks at medical ethics, body image, and the ageless quest for ideal physical beauty it could sound like a dull polemic. But that is far from the case. Director Jennifer Juul calls it a “surprising, wacky, dark collage of a play.” In it, the writer bends space and time to put the failings of the medical establishment and the individual’s struggle with various cultures’ ideas of appearance in a stark and strangely funny light.

An 18th century Chinese bride called Forgiveness From Heaven is experiencing complications from having had her feet bound following a longstanding tradition. While waiting to see a doctor she encounters the aptly named Victoria, a Victorian housewife whose husband thinks her desire to study Greek is one of her many symptoms of hysteria. Then there is Wanda a present-day Jersey Girl having problems with her breast implants. It is the crisscrossing of their stories, cultures and times that casts the reflection of our age-old struggle with ideals of physical attractiveness and a world that still has its own “image problem.”

More than eager to take on the challenge at hand is first-year theatre performance student Madeline Murchie-Beyma who says she was ecstatic to be cast as Wanda. “I hadn’t expected to be cast in a mainstage production during my first semester…I couldn’t have been more happy.” She adds that she also never expected her first outing as a college actor to be in a play that addresses the subjects this one does. But she says as complex as the play may sound it is “viscerally relatable” and hints at the plays alternately disturbing and quirky tone by saying it walks the line between “madcap, comedic fantasy and painful truths.”

Joining Murchie-Beyma in the netherworld of the waiting room as Forgiveness From Heaven is Maria Hildebrand, herself a newcomer to Radford, and Grace Ellinghaus, a frequent player on the Pridemore stage, as the distraught Victoria.
Zak Bacon, Drew Callahan, Maddie Cindrich, Sech Gire, Forrest Goodwin, Mac McMullen, and Jordan Wommack round out the fearless troupe. Theatre student Matthew Shields is co-designing the scenery with Assistant Professor Jimmy Ray Ward; Costumes are by Professor Monica Weinzapfel and lighting by Assistant Professor W. David Wheeler.

Due to the nature of its subject matter, the play is intended for mature audiences.

For tickets, visit rutheatretickets.universitytickets.com. They are $10 for general admission. Radford University faculty and staff are $6 and RU students with an Id are free. Seniors (55+) are $6 and a group rates of $6 per person is available for groups of 10 or more. For more information, call 540-831-5141.  

Oct 7, 2015