Andi Velazquez Mejia ’18 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
Long before stepping into the theater and finding their seats, the audiences that bought tickets to watch Eve Ensler’s O.P.C. at the American Repertory Theater received a 45-page program. However, unlike the majority of the programs obtained when going to see a performance, the O.P.C. program arrived via e-mail.
Why not stick to the traditional way of distributing programs? Well, it is just the first step the creators of the play have taken to promote their environmentally friendly approach to art.
As the receivers of the e-mails began reading their electronic tomes, they read about curious developments. “Rather than pre-ordering wood and other supplies, O.P.C.’s scenic artists took their inspiration, and their raw materials, from local waste.” Trying to picture how the production department incorporated garbage into the set design proved challenging for the curious soon-to-be spectators.
Finally, performance night arrives, and the eager audiences arrive at the theater prepared to see if their imagination, fueled by the descriptions of the set they previously read, matches the final product. They discover it is even better. Cardboard boxes cover the walls. Strings of water bottles dangle from the ceiling. The set pieces are made out of trash and create the space in which the actors play. Without a doubt, the stage aesthetics are truly unlike anything else.
The people who live in that world are equally fascinating and captivating. Romi, the female protagonist, played by the amazing Olivia Thirlby, is humane, compassionate, and headstrong. She classifies herself as a “Freegan”, a person who rejects the consumerist culture of modern society and uses other people’s excess and waste to sustain themselves. Romi lives such a raw lifestyle in the hopes of improving the world. Unfortunately, her politically active mother, Smith, rejects her eldest daughter’s behavior since Smith believes Romi will negatively affect her campaign for senator. Romi’s sister, Kansas, who manages Smith’s campaign, shares the same feelings. The only member of the family who defends Romi by stating she is not weird but simply “different” is Bruce, her father.
The family therefore struggles to freely communicate with each other. In an attempt to soften things with Smith, who feels unsupported, Romi presents to her mother her latest creation of “High Trashion”: a dress made out of recycled apricot skins. What at first seems like a bizarre idea ends up boosting Smith’s image and her campaign. Romi is propelled into stardom with her designs using fruit skin, but the sudden success causes Romi to struggle between her Freegan ideals and the resurfacing of consumerist behavior. Nervous breakdowns and much argument ensue.
The solid performances by the cast, mixed with highly interesting character development and good moments of humor dispersed throughout the play make O.P.C. a must-see show. More importantly, the overall message Romi communicates leaves audiences re-imagining a few things.
Romi believes people should care more about their impact and interaction with the world. People should reconsider what it means to call something “trash”. People should learn how to live with the bare necessities without all the additional material things. People should break free from institutions and ideas sold to the masses. And for the sake of humanity, she may be right.
O.P.C. runs at the American Repertory Theater’s Loeb Drama Center until January 4, 2015. For tickets and more information visit americanrepertorytheater.org.