“Umm, there’s a naked woman on the program.”
These were the first words I heard as I strolled into Robsham Theater on Friday night, anxious to see the BC Theatre Department’s mainstage production of “The Arabian Nights.” I was a little unsure of what to expect after hearing this comment about the front cover of the program, but excited at the same time because, let’s be real, how could a program like that produce anything less than interesting? What I didn’t know was that I was in for one of the most hysterical nights that I’ve had here at BC.
Here’s the gist of the play: Shahryar, a cruel Persian king, develops a passionate distrust of women after he discovers that his wife has been unfaithful. He has her executed, and thereon begins to marry a number of virgins only to murder them the next morning. His vizier, whose job is to provide the virgins, cannot find any more, but his daughter Scheherazade offers herself as the king’s next bride. On their wedding night, she begins to tell Shahryar a compelling story, but does not finish it. The king is so curious about how the story ends that he delays her execution until she has finished the tale. As soon as she finishes it the next night, she begins a new one, again delaying her execution. After this continues for 1,001 nights, the king realizes his madness, and returns Scheherazade to her family.
The storytelling aspect of this show allowed for many moments of audience interaction. At one point, the actors called for audience members to clap for the most generous of three men, and the nature of the dialogue made it seem as if the cast members were telling the stories directly to the audience. The stories were also presented in a modern way, such as using a baguette, a sword and fruit to represent certain, well, male body parts. These modern and less-traditional elements of the show made it one of the most hilarious plays that I have ever seen, and the audience seemed to agree as they spent a good amount of time roaring with laughter.
One of the more unique elements of the show was the lack of an orchestra. The background music came from a talented group sitting in the front right corner of the stage, casually playing their bongos, tambourines and Arabian guitars. The style was very coffeeshop-esque and gave the play an indie-cool vibe that isn’t the norm among traditional plays.
It spoke to both the character of the actors and the audience full of college students.
“The show wasn’t what I expected, but it was so artistic and colorful that I really enjoyed it! The idea of a story within a story was so complex but was so well done that it wasn’t confusing,” said Melissa Warten, ‘16. The plot often involved Scheherazade telling stories of other people telling stories, and the layering of it all made the stage a playground as multiple dance numbers, dialogues and action scenes kept the audience alert and constantly engaged.
The most controversial and shocking part of the night came at the very end, when a massive explosion, complete with the sounds of sirens in the background, left audience members stunned and slightly confused about what exactly had happened to the characters at the end of the play.
Nick Gennaro, ’16, who played the Jester and other assorted roles in the show, explained, “The ending was not in the original script, but my director added it in. It was intended to show that people, cities and cultures can be destroyed, but stories can live forever.” However unexpected it might have been, the risky modern ending gave audiences something to talk about, and certainly made the play unforgettable.
The BC Theatre Department puts on six plays every year, four directed by faculty and two by students. Although dominated by Theatre Arts majors, casting is open to all students in the BC community. According to Gennaro, being a part of a show is an unbelievable experience.
“The relationship between the cast is awesome. I love everyone in the show. It’s just the fact that we’re together for so long in the rehearsal process, we develop such a great bond and we’re like a big family,” he said.
Naked woman and all, "The Arabian Nights" amazed audiences with its hysterical dialogues, brilliantly colorful costumes and unanticipated ending, and has exposed the BC community to the talent and witty sense of humor of the BC Theatre Department. Bravo.