The Duquesne Red Masquers have traditionally relied on adventurous programming, usually performing an eclectic mix of classic and contemporary theater. This year, the Masquers celebrate their centennial with an exciting variety of work, and end the year with March, a new play written by Duquesne alumnus Matt Smith and directed by John E. Lane Jr.
March pairs the anxieties of military service with the practice of witchcraft. Maddie, played by Duquesne senior Alexis Jabour, is a harmless high school librarian by day and a passionate witch by night. She often speaks in lengthy monologues to the sky, seeking communion with an unexplained force of energy called the SunGate. Maddie and her sister, Polly (Maeve Montgomery), restlessly await the fulfillment of a prophecy that promises the continuation of their bloodline. They find their protégé in Jordan (Tyler Jennings), an impudent student who shows a unique gift for spellcasting. However, their plans are disrupted when Jordan considers enlisting in the army to help his brother, a struggling serviceman stuck in Afghanistan. I'm not making this up.
If that's not enough for you, the play also seeks to address the reality of PTSD in veterans, the ruthlessness of army bureaucracy, and witchcraft's ability to serve as a real source of comfort and community for troubled individuals. Playwright Smith describes the show as "a play about a young man who has to decide how he will impact the world, and he has to make that decision without any knowledge of how his decisions will play out." March is at its best when it questions the ability of young people to make real decisions about their futures. There is an affecting tableau in which Jordan and two officers give a moving account of their current area of service.
The production is apt, mostly shifting focus through lighting cues — and, at one dramatic point, overtly referencing Stanley Kubrick's film Full Metal Jacket. March alternates between engaging social commentary/comedy and bullheaded melodrama, ultimately revealing a desire to believe that a combination of service and faith can successfully shape a young mind.