“Mind-bending,” “surrealist,” “odd,” “quirky,” and “contemporary” are just a few of the words used by director Caitlyn Tella to describe the University of Toledo’s latest theatre production. The Internationalist is a comedy not often produced, so UT offers a unique opportunity to see a play that not only will leave audiences laughing, but will also give them something to think about.
Lost in translation
Featuring a cast of six actors, the story revolves around Lowell, an American businessman who travels abroad for work. After arriving in an unnamed country, Lowell is not only battling the expected jet-lag, but also must face the difficulty of trying to understand a language he does not speak.
Tella explained that the language of this unnamed country is completely made-up by playwright Anne Washburn. With elements of German, Russian, and even some Japanese, the language sounds entirely real and allows a lot of freedom for the cast. “It makes memorization much harder, but it does allow a lot of opportunity to fill-in-the blanks because she [Washburn] does not give subtitles,” stated Tella.
With no translation as to what Washburn intended the language to say, Tella and the cast have been creating their own subtitles which are then translated to the audience through the actors’ physicalities on stage. “It’s really in-depth and the audience experiences this lost in translation that Lowell feels,” Tella added. Although this unique language is an important element of the play, Tella assures that the majority of the play is in English.
Fun and laughs
The “lost in translation” feeling is visually portrayed in certain parts of the play, as a way for the audience to see through the protagonist’s jet-lagged and confused mind. Many of the set pieces are inspired by film noir to help capture a feeling of unknowing and mystery.
However, the main setting for this production is quite familiar to many Americans as it is a traditional corporate office. The familiarity of this set is meant to express the globalization of the corporate world. This is one connection between the American culture and the unknown country’s culture, but much of the play involves Lowell’s struggle with trying to bridge the cultural divides.
One of the most important aspects of any comedy is the ability for a cast to communicate the humor to an audience, and, according to Tella, this is one of the greatest rewards in directing this production. “They [the cast] are always making me laugh, and I hope all the fun and laughs we share are translated in the piece.”
The play is a story of confusion not easily expressed in words. “It’s about the unexpected, and what you think or know isn’t the be all and end all. It’s a man who is coming to terms with the fact that he— and we— are not the center of the universe,” Tella explains. There’s a lot more to the world than what we know, and The Internationalist tackles the difficulties of this realization with humor.
Show runs Friday, March 31-Sunday, April 9.
Friday and Saturday at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2pm.
$15/general $10/seniors $8/students, children.
Recommended for 14 years and older due to language.
UT Center for Performing Arts, 1910 W. Rocket Dr. 419-530-2787. utoledo.edu