Everything isn’t always as it seems in the living room of the plush and distinctly suburban house that sets the stage of Masque & Gown’s fall production, “A Delicate Balance.” The student-run group premiered the story of suburban life, domesticity and emotional anxiety last night in Memorial Hall’s Wish Theater. 

Written by Edward Albee in 1966, the Pulitzer Prize-winning play focuses on the tenuous marriage between two suburbanites—Agnes and Tobias—and the conflict that ensues following the arrival of old friends and family. As much as the couple tries to preserve their uncommunicative yet seemingly peaceful marriage, these visits ultimately disrupt their balance and put the actions of the play into motion.

According to director Jack Arnholz ’19, the theatre troupe decided on Albee’s play because of its ability to convey a sense of surprise through the inner turmoil found in a banal, suburban world.

“The story was so unsettling,” Arnholz said. “The characters were so complicated and the mundane setting allowed its characters to stand out even more against the contrasting plot. Edward Albee is my favorite playwright, and when deciding which of his works to choose, I was shocked by ‘A Delicate Balance.’”

Although Arnholz felt that many Bowdoin students might at first feel distant from the suburbanite characters, he was hopeful that the story’s themes would ultimately feel familiar. 

“It concerns the impact of what happens when you funnel up your emotions inside and cage the anxieties inside yourself for too long such that they eventually become realities,” he said. “It’s a very universal reality—when you don’t express yourself, you become paralyzed by those anxieties ... [The play’s] mission is for people to leave with a better respect for the importance of communication and openness in relationships.”

Arnholz has been working closely with his six-person cast for months in preparation for the shows this weekend, with the last few weeks consisting of six-hour rehearsals, four days a week.

According to Sydney Benjamin ’19, the small size of the cast and the intense rehearsals have both intensified the bonds between the cast and given the cast views of their characters that are more nuanced and intimate. 

“It means that every combination of actors on stage has its own very clear dynamic, which is super helpful on stage because then you understand the other characters on stage so well,” said Benjamin. 

“It’s been super intense, but also super rewarding to be working in such a small environment with such a close cast,” she added. “It’s helped me grow as an actress.”

Beyond rehearsal time, Arnholz has also enjoyed being able to sit down with each of them for long meals discussing the intricacies of their characters, a reality that was only made possible by the relatively small cast size. According to Arnholz, that dynamic contributed to even greater character development and ultimately a more gripping performance.