Plenty of fun in dysfunctional 'Raised in Captivity'

3:56:57 PM CDT - Wednesday, February 15, 2006

By Shannon Littlejohn

We're all a little dysfunctional, observed Stephen Barker, a music theater major who is playing the lead character in "Raised in Captivity," a quirky and dark comedy soon to grace WSU's Second Stage with its all-student cast and crew.

It's a family affair that follows Barker's character, Sebastian Bliss, through his mother's bizarre death by shower head to an uncomfortable reunion with his twin sister, Bernadette Dixon, who is wed to a dentist with a growing aversion to teeth. Throw in a needy therapist and a prison pen pal, and you get a play, as described by The New York Times, "about guilt, redemption and self-punishment and, against all odds, it is also very funny."

"Raised in Captivity" is by off-Broadway playwright Nicky Silver, a Philadelphia native who is fast developing a reputation for approaching the sometimes melodramatic theme of family dysfunction with intellect and a fresh and funny attitude.

The Bliss/Dixon mix in "Raised in Captivity" provides a family everyone can appreciate, said Barker.

"They make you feel better about your own," he said, laughing about the over-the-top characters. Still, there is a poignancy and depth to the play's people that swings the story from hilarity to serious themes.

Cassiday Proctor plays Sebastian's sister, Bernadette Dixon; Christopher Roberts is Kip Dixon; Leah Swank plays a dual role as Hillary MacMahon/Miranda Bliss; and Stephen Hitchcock is in a dual role as Dylan Taylor Sinclair/Roger.

Theater performance major Cody Proctor is directing the play with scenic design by Matthew Johannes; lighting design by Chris "Tuck" Mailloux; and costume design by Brittany D. Barnes. The technical director is Eric Bledsoe; properties manager is Troy Blecha and stage manager is Sai Baig.

"Raised in Captivity" earned its place in theater culture after its 1995 appearance at the Vineyard Theatre in New York and a review in The New York Times that called it "a cause to celebrate." It has also earned Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle nominations.

Silver began writing at age 20 after graduating from the theater program at New York University. His other plays include "Pterodactyls" (Oppenheimer Award, Kesselring Award, Drama Desk nomination, Outer Critics Circle nomination), "The Eros Trilogy," "The Food Chain" (Outer Critics Circle nomination), "Fat Men in Skirts," "Fit to Be Tied," "The Maiden's Prayer," "Free Will and Wanton Lust" (Helen Hayes Award), "My Marriage to Ernest Borgnine" and "The Altruists."

"Raised in Captivity" is rated M for mature audiences.

University Theatre Second Stage will present "Raised in Captivity" at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, Feb. 22-25, and 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 25-26, in the Welsbacher Theatre in the Eugene M. Hughes Metropolitan Complex at 5015 E. 29th St. N. Tickets are $8, with discounts available. For ticket information, contact the College of Fine Arts Box Office at 978-3233.

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