By McKenna Brazie
The SUNY Plattsburgh theater department’s “Nefarious” closed out a strong year of performances April 28. Directed by Shawna Mefferd Kelty, “Nefarious” is a superhero-themed comedy written by Kristen Ritter. Plattsburgh’s performance was the world premiere of the play, and playwright Ritter came from Anchorage, Alaska to see the run of shows.
“Nefarious” takes the classic trope of a coming-of-age story in which the protagonist chooses a new path in life against the parents’ wishes — only this time, it’s in a world of superheroes and villains.
The plot follows ReGina Sutphen as Darkana Deathbringer, an 18-year-old who has been raised her entire life by her super-villain parents, played by Riley McQuade and Caleb Eugley. Her parents are appalled as she goes to Hero College and ends up dating hero-to-be Prince Taran, played by Al Merle. Later, Darkana’s classmates and Prince Taran are held captive by her own Uncle Buckley, played by Bennet Lahar, and Darkana has to rescue them. She realizes that has to prove to the school, her parents and mostly to herself, that she can be the hero she strives to be.
In true comedic fashion, jokes and one-liners delighted the crowd during much of the college-life scenes, which included class lectures on consenting to be rescued and how to spot a villain.
Kelty stated that she had been interested in performing this play since 2020, but COVID-19 had prevented this from happening. However, she stated that the messages within the play ring are more true then ever.
“What does it mean to be a hero? In addition to a coming of age play, this world also challenges us to think about what and who we value and what does that actually look like?” Kelty explained. “It asks us to question and trouble binary thought, to see the world only as either/or rather than as both/and.”
Overall, the cast was somewhat small, consisting of Darkana, three classmates, her parents, her uncle, her professor and some henchmen. Other characters included classmates Trent, played by Gavine Perrini, a rich joker with an inflated ego, and Patricia, played by Bella Anderson. Laughs were uncontrollable when these two characters spoke in the college class on consent to be rescued.
Actress Miranda Velez, portraying one of the “hench peeps” stated how wonderful the work environment was during the production of the show as well.
“Every person in the cast and crew were able to express themselves and we were all treated equally important to the show,” Velez said.
A comedy felt well placed after a year of emotionally “heavier” shows from the theater department, such as “Our Town” or “The Cake.”
The set and prop design was minimal, using only wooden boxes painted in various ways. However, they were always arranged in ways that fit the plot, using them for seats during college lectures, or tables at a tavern scene.
“They were all amazing,” audience member Grace Ewing said. “It was such a funny show, but it also had a sentimental message of being whoever you want to be, and parents accepting their children as what they want to be.”
Also adding to the amusement of the crowd was an array of sound effects, such as a fanfare music for the “hero’s creed” recital, and background crowd noises for a tavern scene. At the Hero College scenes, the projectors were utilized so that the audience could see what would actually be on a college lecture powerpoint for that class. It seems like this is something of the crew or director’s own ideas, not something written into the script notes, making it a welcome and enjoyable idea for Plattsburgh’s production.
In general, the technical aspects of the play were really well done. The lighting and music always seemed purposely placed and used to the performer’s advantage as well as the audience’s enjoyment.
Programs for the show were given electronically, which was somewhat of a hassle because once the show began cellphones were expected to be off and away. So for example, one couldn’t reread through the program to see who is playing a specific character once the show began.
The costumes were all flashy and reflective, setting the mood for a superhero and villain world. Most of the actors also wore glittery or reflective face makeup, which was a really interesting touch that again enhanced the world-building of the play.
The production put smiles on everyone’s faces.