No Refund Theatre Presents: ‘Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind’
No Refund Theatre (NRT) continued its fall catalog of shows with a light-hearted presentation of the show ‘Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind.’
The show, originally directed by Greg Allen in 1988, is a unique and abstract performance that asks the audience to suspend their disbelief and laugh along with the confusion.
“Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind” was structured around 30, two-minute plays with a goal of “30 Plays in 60 Minutes.”
On stage, there was a clothesline with 30 sheets of paper, numbered one to 30, corresponding to each scene. The play, or plays, were performed in a random order, based on audience choice.
The show, directed by Jude Musolino, stars an ensemble cast of six actors, Dani Alleva, Olivia Blumetti, Jared Flood, Amaya Hickson, Ryan Rosignal, and Rachel Sabo.
According to Blumetti, a challenge that came with this show was remembering the lines. Due to the erratic and varied scene order, actors were expected to suddenly get into different characters with zero preparation before each scene.
“In previous shows, you can be like, ‘Oh, I know the next scene is mine. Let me go rehearse them.’ But now, you hear the name, and you have to go right out there,” Blumetti said.
Flood agrees with Blumetti, mentioning how the show gives actors the opportunity to experiment with different characters rapidly.
“I like the aspect of being like not being set to one character, being able to play multiple different characters just to be able to work on like the craft of acting,” Flood said.
Audience participation was especially prominent in this show, as audience members provided story input, applause, and even starred in some scenes.
For example, the show started with play No. 5 — Blind Date. An audience member was chosen to chat at a table across from a blindfolded actor while “Le Festin” from “Ratatouille” played in the background.
On another occasion, during play No. 3 — Manifest Destiny — an actor offers audience members dollar bills in return for them following silly commands.
Play No 6 — Read Me Like a Book —was particularly chaotic with one audience member being asked to help an actor recall a story they’re telling, and another audience member getting loudly scolded after being accused of disrupting the performance.
“For improv, you need to prepare for how to interact with the audience members. It’s not really a, ‘Oh, make sure to talk to them and project,'” Alleva, who starred in “Read Me Like a Book,” said. “You need to talk, interact, and really include them. It was very much a process to learn how to do that.
This chaotic, confusing energy was a common thread throughout the performances in many scenes, purposely leaving the audience with more questions than answers.
In play No. 11 — Days of Wine and Rosés — the main actor was situated in center stage, reciting lines of a period piece to a director in the audience. Continuously, the main actor got the same line wrong while various actors rotate in place of side characters. The lack of continuity and no clear “why” adds to the quirky energy of the show.
An extremely confusing play, No. 22 — Love Dani — featured the titular Alleva and another actor. The actor has a letter addressed to them, warning them of Alleva’s “true behavior.” The segment derails as Alleva becomes more and more agitated with the letter, twitching and muttering under her breath. This culminates in Alleva forcing the letter recipient to slap oneself, ending the scene with the letter’s sign-off, “Love, Dani.”
Play No. 8 — Hair Director — was similar to play No. 11, as this one also includes the “play within a play” narrative. Two actors were directed by another actor who criticized and gave notes one while praised the bare minimum of the other to comedic proportions. Throughout these critiques, the director cycled through various wacky hats for no discernable reason.
According to Sabo, who stars as the micromanaged actor, her character’s notes change every time, forcing her to perform improv on the spot. Tonight, she was told to talk in a deep, painful, voice, “as if [she’d] been stabbed,” and to add a trip in her walking sequence as if her shoelaces were tied together.
Some funny scenes include No. 17 — Flights of Fancy — a Charlie Chaplain-esque silent performance with audience participation, knife throwing, and feats of skill.
Musolino credits the show’s silly nature in picking the performance this week.
“I found it last year,” Musolino said. “And I read through a bunch of the plays and I just thought it was really funny. I knew I wanted to do a comedy.”
The original production of “Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind” included more politically charged or serious topics. Musolino specifically focused on the more comedic aspects of the show when choosing the scenes.
When choosing the cast, Musolino first focused on how potential performers could work with an audience. Then, in callbacks, focused on what scenes the actors could shine in as well as the chemistry within the ensemble.
Sometimes slapstick or just a zingy one-liner, “Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind” aims to make the audience laugh and have a good time. The show is meant to be seen as an experiment, so embrace the variety.
“Be prepared to laugh at us making a fool of ourselves. A big part of the type of humor that this show has is that awkward comedy or like situational humor,” Rosignal said. “Be prepared to laugh at us, alongside with us, but especially at us.”
The show, with an about an 1.5-hour run time, will be performed this week from October 26 to 28. It starts at 8 p.m. Thursday, October 26, and at 9 p.m. on October 27 and 28. All performances are in 111 Forum.
No Refund Theatre offers all of its shows free of charge to anyone interested in attending.
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This is the Nittany Lions’ 43rd straight NCAA Tournament appearance.
Head coach Mike Rhoades lost his first matchup against his former team.
The Nittany Lions had 586 offensive yards and five touchdowns against the Spartans.