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Dina Howell Pd.

7 Drama

The Visit Review

The Visit,​ written by Frederick Dürrenmatt and directed by Brian MacDevitt, is a perverse
comical production, open dates September 28th through October 5th, in the Kay Theatre. It
explores obstacles in devotion to others over oneself, life and death, as well as society’s own
issues in morality, excess, and justice. Audiences are familiar with performances that recognize
the strength in consolidation, but what about it’s weaknesses? ​The Visit​ defines the barrier
between one’s sense of social justice and personal gain; then disrupts it, leaving the audience
both mystified and entertained. Not only does it provoke our ideas on the balance between
morality and profit in our own world, but allows for change before temptation overpowers
goodwill. Settled in a township located in an unestablished democratic nation, the story begins
in utter disarray.
The town is in chaos anticipating the return of the lavish Madame Claire Zachanassian
(Dion Denisse Peñaflor) to her birthplace in the small community of G​ül​ len. A train rushes into
the station and the mysterious woman finally appears carpeted in gold lashes, lengthy nails,
opulent hair and diamond studded heels with an offer declaring, “I wish to buy justice.” The town
will receive a total of one million dollars in exchange for a small price: the body of her former
suitor Anton Schill (Sam Intrater). After years left in exile at the behest of a traditional town,
Madame Zachanassian led a life of prostitution, marrying wealthy men and gaining a fortune of
her own, to then one day return seeking retribution from the man who abused her. The town
openly refuses the gesture claiming, “We may be poor, but we have our principles,” until they
gradually succumb to the temptations of greed and shift their integrity in favor of gluttony. The
performance ends with the lifeless body of Anton Schill being dragged offstage in a moment of
silence before the town explodes into celebration, as is the nature of such a twisted humor the
playwright often manipulates.
In the opening of the play, amid the confusion of the town, Madame Zachanassian (Dion
Denisse Peñaflor) announces her presence directly to the audience, refusing to abandon her
position of power or make eye-contact with any of the characters from her own story as an effort
of heightening her already tremendous status. She’s representative of those in society who’ve
been corrupted: not by greed, but by their own suffering. The single point in which she turns to
face an individual from her own world is to compliment the suffocating, strong arms of a local
and question the burgomeister's role in signing death certificates, a foreshadowment of her prior
intentions. Peñaflor exhibits the characteristics of what it truly means to perform onstage in both
her talent at captivating the audience’s attention and enhancing the character beyond the page.
Her extravagance isn’t limited to her meticulous costume, but to her depiction of what Madame
Zachanassian embodies, a wealthy woman with a long desired vendetta.
Anton Schill (Sam Intrater), the victim of Madame Zachanassian’s vindication and the
man who initially ruined her life is both a husband and father of two. He lives with his family as a
grocer with few worries until the day Madame Zachanassian appears in town with a price on his
head. He is quickly stripped of the world he once knew losing both his friends and eventually his
family to the outlandish number his murder is valued. Intrater smoothly transitions between a
family man, a criminal, a lunatic, a runaway and a hopeless corpse. Throughout the town’s
conspiracy to end his life Schill has various outlooks, beginning with faith in the town’s integrity,
then as loyalties fade paranoia, and finally desperation. The transformation from what he once
was to who he becomes is both seamless and fascinating. At his most vulnerable, the
burgomeister offers him a gun to end it for himself to which he hauntingly replies, “I won’t fight
back, but I won’t do your work for you either.” The sadness hidden behind the thin layer of
power Schill wears as a mask is tragic as he hands the gun back and walks offstage. The
authenticity portrayed in his character at that moment proves Intrater worthy of such an
ambitious role and the image of his grief will forever remain on the minds of those who were
fortunate enough to witness it.
Interactions between characters are well polished with staging that catches the
audience’s attention and allows for discovery of new ideas with each glance. Spread across the
entirety of the set, characters move across the stage, the catwalk and any other platform they
can climb on. Frederick Dürrenmatt (Playwright), illustrates this obscure world and its characters
in ways highly comparable to our own. He criticizes our society’s extortion when tempted with
personal gain, much like Brian MacDevitt (Director) has flawlessly portrayed. The stylized
techniques MacDevitt has implemented, such as the subtle transition between integrity and
corruption among the residents, in which those whose principles have been depraved now bear
the mark of obscenity: yellow. Each individual with moral indecency can be recognized by the
color of their shoes; as they shift their integrity, so do they in appearance, symbolizing the
blemish left by one’s malevolence.
MacDevitt depicts evil not only in his selection of attire, but the lighting that defines each
scene. In the final moments of the play, as the lights dim with a yellowish hue, we find that
corruption has possessed the stage itself, preceding the strangulation of Anton Schill onstage to
witness by the audience. The lighting intensifies as the body is carried away and a symbol for
evil becomes that of a symbol for money. One million dollars rains down upon the stage for the
town to rejoice in, sharing hugs, laughter, dances and the money they’ve earned. As Anton’s
body is brought back onstage, now carried in a coffin paraded upon the catwalk, the lighting
dims back to what it once was, the festivities diminish and the music halts. Only to begin the
amusement once more after he’s departed for the last time, leaving the audience bewildered at
their own jubilancy in watching such absurdity. Overall, ​The Visit ​does many things, but most
importantly it makes you think, what if that’s our future?

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