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Review: THE INSECT COMEDY Exposes Humanity's Most Basic Needs and Desires

The Insect Comedy (by Czech playwrights Karel and Josef Capek) is a satirical play originally written to highlight the cultural trappings of post-World War I Czechoslovakia. Despite being written almost a century ago in a foreign socio-economic and cultural environment, concepts in The Insect Comedy are still relevant--it's an accurate illustration of the most basic needs of humanity (even though the characters are all represented as insects). Westmont College's presentation of the Capeks' work overleaps the dangers of producing an outdated allegorical play as mere theatrical exercise by emphasizing the most honest moments of the essence of humanity--and organizing them in a fresh and relatable manner. Directed by John Blondell, The Insect Comedy is stylish visual production that exemplifies not only the fact that the crucial aspects of what humanity deems important haven't changed in almost a century, but also that these trappings and essentials are considered vital to all forms of life--not just the human species.

The Insect Comedy is a series of clever scenes about the emblematic interactions that guide the direction of our lives by accentuating universal motivation within the structures of our existence. Told through the point of view of insects, it's clear that these incentives and constructions of life are analogous to all beings, regardless of form: from beetles to butterflies to ants, and all the way up the genus/species tree to humanity's top branches. Blondell's production, featuring students of the Westmont theater department, was a sophisticated representation of these enduring qualities of mankind; and a reminder that despite the miracles of human science and evolution, we are all--insects, animals, people--a product of the world we live in: trying to survive and thrive for the biological purpose of species perpetuation.

Sophisticated in concept, the characters, despite being insects, are dressed as humans with stylish anthropomorphized costuming elements such as buggy sunglasses and gossamer fabric. They enter through human-shaped cutout spaces in the upstage backdrop, a metamorphic portal between human actor and insect character. A well-paced series of allegories, The Insect Comedy shows the emotional arc of romance with flashy, lusty butterflies; the compulsion to acquire prosperity and financial security with the dung collection of a couple of beetles; the parental ferocity to provide for a child in the case of a homicidal fly trying to satisfy a ravenous larva; and the arrival of the next generation--a pupae waiting to be born. The Insect Comedy is a parade of these most automatic urges of life, a stylized account of the constant, consistent, and undeniable motions of the universe.

This instinctiveness of our culture is well represented by the concerns of bugs, and characters in The Insect Comedy function with the fervent commitment of insects tending to their few, but imperative tasks. The show was well acted by the Westmont students who unilaterally embodied that sense of undaunted purpose toward their vital objectives. The characters offered little deliberation or torment of conscious in their actions (being that their main motivation was survival). There's an aspect of brutality to the characters' single-mindedness, but without the anguish of conscious that comes with the consequence-laden decision-making in human-based drama, the insects' drama seemed guileless and unavoidable. The connection between the refinement of current human culture and our ancestors' baser instincts is brought to lively, colorful display in The Insect Comedy, a timely exploration of our most rudimentary wants and needs. The Westmont theatre department's production of The Insect Comedy is an entertaining spectacle that exposes humanity at its most unfiltered.

The Insect Comedy

Westmont Theatre Department
Directed by John Blondell

Featuring: Chloe Burns, Mia Altman, Lindsey Twigg, Wendy Waldrop, Dillon Montag, Brent Starrh, Sophie Rivera, Tatum Blinn, Elena White, Erin Leahy, Connor Bush, Anna Telfer, Elaine Pazaski, Danielle Draper, Alice Geng, Bethany Baca, Morgan O'Keefe, Christine Nathanson, and Brynn Mitchell

Up Next for Westmont Theater Department:
The Fringe
Curated by Mitchell Thomas
April 16 - 19 (Thurs-Sun)
Various times and locations

"Our annual, student-driven fringe festival is back and bigger than ever! This spring celebration of original work features a wealth of contemporary dance, performance art, site-specific theatre, design installations, and the triumphant return of the 10-Minute Play Project. A one-of-a-kind event that is not to be missed.

$10 Daily General Admission, $7 Students, Seniors, and Children. All Festival Passes available for purchase.
For tickets, go to www.westmont.edu/boxoffice."



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