By Jackie Massaro
CCC Journalism Program
BLACKWOOD – “Under Milk Wood,” a radio play written by the late Dylan Thomas and adapted and directed for stage by Allison Green, opened this weekend at Camden County College.
As they entered the Dennis Flyer Theatre on April 18, a table set up with programs and postcard-size flyers greeted guests with an almost ethereal vibe thanks to two flowering tree branches on either side. A sign-up sheet was available if one was inclined to keep in touch with Readers’ Theatre via email. This was the second night of the show, the sign-up sheet was nearly filled, and the donation bowl was overflowing.
“Opening night was great,” Green said. “We had a house of 52. It gets a little bigger every year. More people understand what Readers’ Theatre is and begin to appreciate it.”
At quarter to eight, the doors opened and guests were directed to the first seven rows of the center orchestra section. Baroque-style music performed by an ensemble consisting of an acoustic guitar, flute and keyboard player greeted them. The pieces were relaxing and set the tone for the Victorian village to come. On stage were eight stools and four microphones with flowering tree branches serving as end caps. A screen behind the stools showed eclectic art from Peter Blake, the godfather of British Pop Art, from his exhibition of visual interpretations about this play.
Shortly after eight o’clock, the lights dimmed and the cast appeared on either side of the audience’s seats, making their way to the stage with one of the female actors signing the lullaby “All Through the Night.” The men were dressed in tuxedos and the women in black evening dresses. Once they took their places, the narrator took her place at her microphone and invited the audience to the dreams of the townsfolk of Llareggub.
Throughout the performance an original feature film played to help viewers understand the language of the play. With that came live sound effects that were carefully timed to the film and dialogue. At one point an ocean appeared on the screen and the lapping and soothing roar of the waves were made by a bowl of water and small beads that were moved slowly in a wooden container. Goat sounds, shoes on cobblestone, and a ship bell also were heard during the show.
Each actor portrayed at least five characters, changing from one to another with the trill of a flute. Music accompanied the show except for one 15-minute intermission.