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Tragic comedy ‘The Visit’ to connect theatrics with reality on Ohio State stage

Courtesy of Eric Mayer


At a time when economic problems are a leading worry for many Americans, the latest play from the Ohio State’s Department of Theatre seemingly couldn’t be more relevant.

OSU’s theater department is scheduled to run its performance of “The Visit” Thursday through March 7 in Thurber Theatre at the Drake Performance and Event Center.

The play is a tragic comedy that focuses on Claire Zachanassian, a wealthy woman who returns to her hometown to seek revenge on her ex-lover, Alfred Ill, who caused her to be disgraced. She offers the citizens of her deprived town a large sum of money for Alfred’s life and the satisfaction of revenge. The play is an adaptation of the 1956 production by Friedrich Dürrenmatt but has been updated to present day.

“This is a much more literal translation than some other adaptations have been,” said Brent Ries, a first-year in the Department of Theatre’s Master of Fine Arts program who plays Alfred. “We’ve updated a lot of references because it normally takes place in the 1950s.”

Lesley Ferris, the director of the play and a professor in OSU’s Department of Theatre, said the reason the play was chosen for OSU’s theater department was because of the similarities between the original play and the world today in terms of the economy.

“Money does seem to reign supreme more than ever now,” Ferris said. “I think it’s a play of today even though it was (originally) a post-war play. Some of the lines … you hear them and you’re going like, ‘Oh my God, the politician said that yesterday.’ It’s kind of uncanny.”

Ferris also said the play was chosen because it features a large cast, which gives more opportunities to students. The 29-person cast is comprised of undergraduate students, students in the Department of Theatre’s Master of Fine Arts program and one guest artist.

While the cast did not start rehearsing the play until January, Ferris said design work for the play started last September.

“I really wish I could see it because of the set design, the lighting design, the costumes, the video projections. The stuff I’ve been able to see, limitedly, is so cool,” said Meg Chamberlain, a first-year in the Master of Fine Arts program who plays Claire. “I think it’s going to be quite striking to watch.”  

Jessica Hirsh, a first-year in theater who plays a train supervisor, a journalist and a citizen in the play, said being able to work with the Master of Fine Arts students has been a rewarding experience.

“Back home when I do theater, I was always the oldest and it was all the little kids looking up to me,” Hirsh said. “Now I get to be that little kid looking up to them and I’m learning so much and it’s really cool.”

While she hopes the audience finds the play funny, Ferris also hopes those who see the play will walk away with more.

“I hope people will laugh, but I also hope the laughter will have a pointedness and make them think as well,” Ferris said. “That was one of Dürrenmatt’s great things, was that laughter and comedy are our only hope in a world in which it’s already tragic, so let’s try to laugh and see what some of those tragic things, how they can be taken, and how they can make us think in a different way about it.” 

Chamberlain said the play is very thought-provoking and has the potential to spark conversation.

“I think the audience is going to walk away with a very individual opinion on it. At the very least I hope it causes conversation, that you don’t walk out of the theater and say, ‘Oh that was nice,’ and done,” Chamberlain said. “I think this is a show that after you see it, you want to go with the people you’ve seen the show with and have a cup of coffee and talk about what you’ve seen.”

Tickets for “The Visit” are $15 for students, $18 for OSU faculty and staff and $20 for the general public, and can be purchased at the OSU Theatre Box Office or online through Ticketmaster. The Drake Performance and Event Center is located at 1849 Cannon Drive.

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