Lines become blurred in UMMU's reality
By Nicole Caldwell, GLOB Guest Columnist
EDITOR'S NOTE: Nicole Caldwell is a theater lover with playwriting ambitions. Nicole just graduated from the College of Business and is on the Administrative Staff in the UF Department of Psychology by day. Nicole relishes the idea of slipping off into theater land by night, getting lost in the other world of lights, drama and a compelling story unfolding before her theatrical eyes.
This statement on the front of the UMMU program put my head in the right place at the right time for the world premiere of the alternate world adventure, UMMU, written by Gainesville's own Tom Miller, directed by Michael Presley Bobbitt, and presented by the Acrosstown Repertory Theatre.
The play is set in a psychiatrist's office and in the world of UMMU, an alternate world with a lavender moon and trees with hundreds of eyes.UMMU was created by the vivid imagination of John (Wester Joseph), an artist and psychiatry patient. John's psychiatrist, Fred (Shamrock McShane), in an attempt to cure John of chronic déjà vu and methamphetamine addiction, enters John's imaginary world and meets Celeste (Lola Bond), a beautiful psychiatrist who lives in UMMU.
UMMU is a play within a play, a world within a world. The line between reality and imagination becomes more and more blurred over time. The patient becomes the doctor, and the doctor becomes the patient.
Michael Presley Bobbitt, the Set Designer, created the two separate worlds with a line of rocks between the psychiatrist's office and UMMU. Also, on the UMMU side of the set, a beautiful, 30-foot mural by Anastasia Overton is painted with clouds and big eyes shining through them. Laura Jackson did a great job using a subtle costume change of John unzipping his jacket when entering UMMU and zipping it back up when entering the "real" world, and then, by the end, just removing his jacket.
The original music by Tom Miller and the sound and lighting by Mike McShane together really set the tone of the play. Throughout the play, light and subtle music is playing, complementing the story without distracting the audience. UMMU ends with the same mysterious music playing, mirroring the theme of the play. At one point, there was thunder and lightning so realistic it made me jump out of my seat. I especially enjoyed the way colored lights were shone on the mural, each color seemingly creating a new work of art.
The acting was amazing. Lola Bond's facial expressions perfectly displayed Celeste's emotions. Wester Joseph, as John, was multi-dimensional and agile – How did he not fall with some of his moves? Is he a dancer? Shamrock McShane brilliantly portrayed Fred's desire to immerse himself in John's world.
I found the play to be very deep and very relatable. There is so much to think about here after the play is over, as you replay everything you just saw in your head, over and over, what is real? The escape, the anxiety, the fantasy – can't we all relate to that? Isn't that why we go to theatre? For the story, yes, but also for the escape and the fantasy, to get immersed into another world. UMMU definitely offers that, and then some. Here, like Fred, you can immerse yourself into the characters and into their world, while trying to figure out what is real. "I think we have agreed, that is a matter of perspective, haven't we, doctor?" – John.
Tom Miller's UMMU comes full circle, beginning and ending with the same dialog regarding déjà vu and reality. "Nothing happens exactly the same way when it repeats itself, it happens infinitely differently." This is said in the beginning by Celeste, and then again at the end by (plot spoiler!) John/Fred. I thought about that the next morning, as I was icing a cake and adding an ingredient that I don't normally add to a cake I've made more times than I could count. This can easily be applied to most situations. No two cakes are the same, no two sauces are the same, no two haircuts. The slightest adjustment can change everything.
Last but not least, in lieu of an intermission, there was a "post-mission" soiree after the show, where the audience could meet the director and actors. Here we had the opportunity to discuss the play, our thoughts, and our lives, whatever we wished, and drink complementary wine and sangria.
Why don't all shows have a post-mission soiree?
I love the theater especially after seeing a great play like UMMU. You don't want to go home and go to bed, you want to discuss it. I thought the post-show reception was a fantastic idea and I'm hoping it catches on and is used for other plays and at other venues. In addition to being able to discuss the play right after, there's the added benefit of lingering "within" the play rather than coming back to reality at the end of the show and trying to get back into the reality the play created. My theater partner especially enjoyed that the post-mission was called a soiree. So fancy!
Some UMMu images courtesy of the Gainesville Downtown website. The Acrosstown Repertory Theatre's production. and Tom Miller's world premiere of UMMU continues through May 28 Fridays through Saturdays at 8 pm, and at 2 pm on Sundays.FOLLOW THIS LINK for more information.