This weekend, student theater group Masque and Gown put on three performances of Philip Dawkins’s “Failure: A Love Story.” Directed by Sinclaire Ledahl ’23, this fantastical tale expertly combines humor and tragedy, eliciting emotional responses from audiences. “Failure” blurs the line between a straight play and a musical, featuring song, dance and talking clocks over an hour and a half that brings the aptly named Fail family to life.
The show follows the three Fail sisters as they go about their lives in the Fail Clockworks shop. The play immediately sets itself apart as the chorus reveals the sisters’ fast-approaching doom in the very first line, but this doesn’t lessen the emotional impact when those scenes eventually come. Even the actors, who have gone through the script hundreds of times, were affected by the show’s heavy emotions, including Samara Braverman ’24, who was one of five narrators in the show.
“I feel like people often think of narrators as kind of emotionally removed from the plot, but we definitely weren’t. Even though we knew what was going to happen, our characters cared so much about these people,” Braverman said.
Directing this show was a special moment for Ledahl, who has been in love with “Failure: A Love Story” since she was the costume apprentice for a professional production of it in high school.
“I’ve known the show for a long time. I love it a lot, and I’ve been thinking about doing it here for a while,” Ledahl said. “This is the moment I feel like I have the skills I need.”
This was Ledahl’s directorial debut, and she spoke to both the challenges and rewards of an entirely student-run production.
“In the past, we’ve definitely had some issues with the balance between working with peers and friends,” Ledahl said. “But I think that on this show, in particular, I’m working with a lot of people that I like a lot, and it’s been going really smoothly.”
Braverman had nothing but positive things to say about the production. From the moment she read the audition scripts, she was hooked and praised its whimsical nature and the wit in the writing.
“I had a bunch to do at the time, but I could not pull myself away [from the script]. I love the way Phillip Dawkins writes. I think it’s very clever. In my experience with plays, I’ve mostly done shows that are very much based on realism. People talk when people talk. There’s not much wordplay or cleverness in the lines, but there very much is in this show, and I love it,” Braverman said. “[Ledahl] loves the show, and she clearly cares about her actors so much, too, and that’s partly because she loves this show, and she loves the world she’s created, but also because she’s a very caring and wonderful person.”
Audience members also praised the play, noting especially the uniqueness of the script and the strength of the acting.
“It’s quirky and unusual in an amazing way,” audience member Hunter Hong ’26 said. “Innovative and well produced with such a small cast of people and crew.”
Kanene Nwokeji ’26, another audience member, was particularly impressed with the play’s deeper message, reciting a line from the production.
“‘If you knew how you were gonna die would that make living any easier?’ I was like ‘Wow. That’s so deep,’” Nwokeji said.
One thing is for sure: the campus is looking forward to what Masque and Gown does next.