UNCW Theatre Department exhibits full range of motion with “A Slight Ache”

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Janet Adamson Images

Stephen Lambros, Staff Writer

Despite concerns elicited by the still-rampant COVID-19 pandemic, UNCW’s theatre department has decided to move forward with live showings of the department’s productions. Only UNCW faculty, staff or students are admitted as audience members—and what’s more, they must wear masks for the entire show. The actors themselves performed in face shields.

These changes to the play’s presentations make for a different viewing experience, but in many ways, Harold Pinter’s “A Slight Ache”—which only features three actors, one of which wears a balaclava for the entirety of his onscreen presence—seems like the perfect stage play to reintroduce the theatre department’s productions with, not only by its conservative amount of performers but also by its moving portrait of the human condition.

Written in the ’50s by the aforementioned Harold Pinter, “A Slight Ache” depicts an essay-writing professor and his impudent housewife going about their lives on the longest day of the summer when, lo and behold, a mysterious match seller who has been standing in their driveway for two weeks straight, is in fact still standing in the driveway. The couple invites the man inside, and their interactions with the man ultimately change their lives forever.

UNCW’s rendition of “A Slight Ache” is performed by Mitchell Nobles, Jess Rose, and Sean O’Brien—all three student actors showcase exquisite performances. The set decoration is minimalist, making use of the stage’s space while furnishing it at its own leisure. Those in charge of lighting are positioning the lights at moments that can only be described as serendipitous. As the longest day of the summer goes on, the lights in the background dim until the end of the play, which is set during the nighttime. The use of the different color spotlights shows the feelings evoked during each of the monologues, which are a nice addition. The subtle planning within the actors’ blocking prove the play’s well-directed nature to the audience. Everything an audience would want from a student production of classic theatre can be found in “A Slight Ache”.

And what’s more, with “A Slight Ache,” the theatre department has done an excellent job with staying true to the deeper meanings and themes of the source material. The play touches upon themes of youth, the economic struggle of different classes and the wife’s dreams and desires. It primarily focuses on the husband’s fear of the unknown: growing old and his own self-identity. Edward is terrified to not know who the match seller was underneath all of the physical (and literal) layers of clothes. The theatre department has taken these themes and made them readily available for the audience to unearth.

With smart social distancing guidelines and bold choices made in the name of safety, the UNCW theatre department seems to have hit a stride. Not only can they continue to organize productions in the face of the global pandemic—but they can also continue to select and pay homage to the finest works in the medium. To see an organization such as this thrive in spite of the world’s situation is truly an inspiring sight to see.