By Kylcye Bolden
Patrons were greeted by the sound of musicians tuning their instruments as they entered the theatre. The stage was lit by a sole spotlight, highlighting a chessboard atop a painting of the world in the center of the stage. A slideshow played, flashing through pictures from the Cold War in the background. Complicated moving staircases with chairs sitting on low platforms welded on their opposite sides rested on both sides of the stage.
The lights dimmed. As the lights rose, the ensemble was highlighted and cast center stage. The orchestra sharpened its tone, and the cast began to sing.
The Cold War era, two-part play uses the game of chess to examine tension-filled relationships allegorical to the experiences during the Cold War. American chess master “Freddie,” portrayed by Jacob Allen, competed in the FIDE Chess Championship against his Russian rival, “Anatoly,” portrayed by Lucas Hefner. The rivals are further divided by their affections for Hungarian-American, “Florence,” portrayed by Allison Huber.
“Molokov and Walter are the players — they are the puppeteers,” ensemble member, Frank Holiday said.
Agreeing with Holiday, assistant stage manager, Shelby Massot added that every character in the musical has two roles.
“Everyone is being played in someway, but everyone is also playing — there is a bit of both,” she said.
The actors and music have been well received. Audience members gave great acclaim to “You and I” sang by Hefner, Huber and Maggie Robinson, who played Anatoly’s wife, “Svetlana.” Huber was also acknowledged for her rendition of the song “Nobody’s Side.” Other members of the cast, “the Arbiter,” David Couter and Allen, were greatly praised for the songs, “Arbiter’s Song” and One Night in Bangkok, respectively.
Though their work physically and vocally is receiving a lot of attention, patrons are most impressed with the technical design elements used for the set.
“They are really impressed with the lighting,” Massot said. “I am hearing a lot of good things about the set and that’s really exciting.”
The staircases allowed the cast a lot of mobility on stage. Most cast members, like Holiday, shared excitement for the inclusion of the set pieces.
“We didn’t get them until a couple of week before we actually opened,” he said. “Once we got them, we got to play with them. It was fun climbing around like we were back in grade school."
Not sharing the excitement, however, stage managers including Massot, sometimes grew frustrated with the set during the rehearsal process.
“They kept breaking,” she said. “Once we got them to work, they were great and I loved them. It took forever to get them to actually work.”
Besides the details to the set, the play includes over 250 lighting and sound cues.
"Tech took us forever," Holiday said. "With everything we had, I didn't expect we could pull it off, but they did a really good job.
"Chess" closed curtain on March 1. The next production from the department, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, begins April 17.