Premiering to a sold-out crowd at the College of Charleston’s Chapel Theatre, Outrage is anything but upsetting. The academic satire written by Itamar Moses is a strong, sensational two-and-a-half-hour odyssey through the ever evolving but painfully, oftentimes sinfully, unchanged institutions of higher learning.
The play, which premiered in 2003, shifts fluidly from present to past to display the follies of education when it is misused, misguided, or must be defended. It digs deep into the fabric of the student-mentor relationship to find both the inner beauty and the hidden flaws. That the College has chosen this play as a learning tool (and yes, showcase) for its increasingly capable stable of students is truly inspired.
And what a showcase this turns out to be. Director Allen Lyndrup oversees a large cast, and these actors manage the long, heavy, and wordy script with recognizable and respectable skill. Ryan Masson and George Metropolis shine at the center of the play’s conflict as two rival professors (senior professor of Classics and young professor of English, respectively) who clash over the modernization and intention of their school. Nick Smithson gives a solid performance as Steven, a grad student who finds himself at the center of their dispute.
Smithson and Metropolis have excellent chemistry that epitomizes the student-mentor relationship in all its forms, as seen in the show’s flashbacks to the ancient Greek scholars Socrates (Sean McCants) and Plato (Vincent Cellini). Patrick Ruff plays Bertolt Brecht, and he narrates the show with as much earnest and ego as the original playwright himself would have done. The acting here is all very solid, and the chorus of young people is very cleverly utilized, throughout both the show and its intermission.
Miriam Callihan’s scenic design is artistic, recalling images of interstellar photography, and serves the play well. The varying levels do not distract from the focus of any particular scene, and the acoustics in the Chapel mean everyone is heard well. The chorus makes use of handwritten signs, but it would appear both the color and size of the writing was overlooked in the making. Several signs were unreadable from the back of the house, and a few blended in with the color of the lights, causing them to disappear.
They say the Greeks created theater to teach and to entertain. Outrage does both. How fitting that the teachers should be students.