UCSB’s Dept. of Theater and Dance premiered Robert E. Sherwood’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play, “Idiot’s Delight,” in Hatlen Theater on Feb. 29. The play takes place in the 1930s and is essentially centered around the ominous possibility of war, as the story’s respective characters ruminate on the declining state of international affairs. In an interesting twist, the story is entirely set in a hotel lobby in Italy, where a myriad of diverse characters from different nationalities intersect and interact with one another.
The play’s central figure is the American Harry Van – an artist who sincerely represents faith, idealism, optimism and a belief in the good side of human nature. Played outstandingly by Brennan Kelleher, Van is a highly clever man who is immediately identifiable as a hero in the play. Van’s love interest is the deceptive Irene, played brilliantly by Erika Lee. As she entangles herself in lies and deceit, she still manages to reveal herself to be a truly vulnerable character that – perhaps unknowingly – unveils another source of hope. Although Lee and Kelleher stood out, every performance in “Idiot’s Delight” was entirely entertaining and completely convincing.
Although there is little actual plot, the play seems to sustain itself merely on dialogue, focusing mainly on the important themes and issues that affect the characters in question. The interactions between characters are entertaining and interesting in and of themselves, as each character is a strong stereotype, representing his or her respective country, opinions and attitudes. The nuanced humor makes the play even more entertaining and enjoyable to watch, as the audience is completely immersed in the characters’ conversations and in watching their relationships develop and their connections unravel. Watching the tension build and the tone of the play transform is engrossing, as the audience becomes intimately involved with the characters’ lives. The feeling of the latter half of the play can only be described as intense, as tensions mount and feelings of fear overwhelm everybody involved, things that are all too relevant and relatable in today’s war-laden world.
The Dept. of Theater and Dance did a wonderful job with all elements of the performance, from the impressively modern and elegant set design to the spectacular incredibly elaborate and enjoyable dance performance set within the play to the fabulously flamboyant costumes. Most striking was undoubtedly the expressive acting, which ultimately made watching “Idiot’s Delight” the thoroughly enjoyable experience that it was.