The Scranton Players’ “Proprioception” took on an ambitious concept as it brought together Marywood University’s architecture students and The University’s writers and actors to immerse audiences in independent yet interconnected scenes. Students from The University teamed up to write and direct each scene, while Marywood’s architecture students designed the set.
The opening skit, “Disorientation,” written and performed by junior Olivia Gillespie, introduced the audience to the concept of proprioception, or the sense of the body’s orientation in space. Gillespie’s performance was funny, charming and thought-provoking. She incorporated the history of the now-abandoned Scranton School for the Deaf, the performance’s venue, by encouraging members of the crowd to close their eyes and imagine attending the school. At the conclusion of the scene, the surrounding curtains opened and the audience was herded into the center of several minimalistic sets, where they could sit almost anywhere.
A body lying beneath a makeshift tree marked the beginning of the first interwoven scene, “You Have a Pulse.” This scene explores loss in its various forms — loss of fantasy, of a loved one’s life and of a love itself — through a slew of eccentric characters. Chinese food delivery girl Deb (Lizzy Polishan) recounts her misadventure regarding her crush Mike Mollusk (Michael Kranick), while a child named Cora (Latrice Smith) parrots the lines she heard upon the death of her parents. A runaway groom named Not Declan (Cillian Byrne) and bride named Not Devlin (Susan Pickup) supervise until the girls leave and the couple must face the deterioration of their relationship. They decide to go to a bar.
As the first scene concludes, the bride and groom walk to a bar structure across the room as it becomes illuminated. They sit among the audience members while the next scene, “Grievance List,” opens on a college-aged woman named Jamie (Bri Kelley) and her newly single male friend Ben (Dan Mauro) playing a drinking game. The game evolves into an examination of intimacy and insecurity punctuated by witty quips about bears in fancy hats and interspersed complaints about “Stan the creepy TA.” The chemistry between Kelley and Mauro makes the snapshot of a complicated friendship delightful. As the pair exit to go across the street, a balcony above the performance space lights up.
The next scene, “S-takeout,” follows the story of Stan (Byrne), the creepy TA, and a Chinese food delivery boy, Joe (James Pennington). The characters bond by overcoming their sensuous deficiencies — Stan cannot smell and Joe cannot taste — through duck pancakes. Stan uses binoculars to spy on Jamie at the bar across the street and behind the audience. Meanwhile, Joe discusses what makes someone a human. Byrne’s deadpan delivery of the scene’s ridiculous lines complements Pennington’s sincerity. The two develop a friendship until Jamie spots them and they flee.
Next, Deb’s would-be beau Mollusk reveals his side of their encounter in the form of a stand-up comedy act in “MC Damage Control.” Kranick’s over-the-top performance and stage presence contributed to the dynamism of the monologue, in which he describes the purpose of romantic love and laments its disintegration.
The play reaches its climax in the final scene, “Easy to Sink,” which takes place in a swimming pool constructed out of long strips of plastic. All of the actors return as new characters except Smith, who plays an older Cora. She initially describes the beautifully lonely sensation of sinking, until strangers, family members, neighbors, former classmates, a confused chiropractor and even an ex-boyfriend appear. Activity and chaos gradually escalate from hilarity to absurdity until Cora finds her voice and brings the madness to a halt so she can reorient herself in the world. The scene escalates, explodes and de-escalates perfectly, bringing the play to a satisfying conclusion and exemplifying the themes of proprioception and the self.