Jonathan Serret (Judy) and Anthony Guerrero (Vick) performed Mr. Universe, written by Jim Grimsley and directed by Steve Kent, for their senior thesis’ Saturday on the Dailey Theatre Mainstage. Serret and Guerrero rehearsed the piece for more than a year.
“Mr. Universe,” an awe-inspiring play performed by Jonathan Serret and Anthony Guerrero for their senior theses, was a thought provoking study of life and its many complications.
The play, written by Jim Grimsley, was an exercise in morality that pushed the envelope to unveil a mystery that when related to life, lives within everyone.
“When the play was first done it was more shocking (socially), but now people can see through to the inner workings of the play,” Steve Kent, visiting director of theater arts and the director of Mr. Universe, said. “I directed the original debut in Atlanta and I did the New York production off-Broadway.”
Mr. Universe deals with the grittiness of reality, but Kent says it is important not to pinpoint its meaning, because mystery is a big theme of this play.
The play began with a striptease dance performed by muscle man, the character after which the play is named, and by the end of this tantalizing event muscle man was in his underwear and had smeared himself with what appeared to be blood.
When two drag queens and an angry prostitute, Vic, Judy and Katy played by Serret, Guerrero and Rhiannon Cuddy, came upon this bleeding perfec?tion of a man they were astounded to discover he was mute.
After some confusion, they decided to help him.
As the play continued, the lives of Vic, Judy and Katy were torn open to reveal their inner workings of despair and sadness.
Muscle Man, although mute, was an important part of their transformation.
He was the glue that held these three outcasts together, and although all three characters believed they were helping him, they soon realized he was the one saving them.
Each character seemed hardened by the reality of life, but when confronted by each other they turned out to be vulnerable and human.
Vic, Judy and Katy were dealing with the consequences of a lacking in love. Their relationships with their families and themselves, or lack there of, had given them scars that were deep with sadness; however when
Muscle Man mysteriously entered their lives he healed them from within.
“Muscle Man is a little outside the play, then comes in and makes a miracle happen.” said Guerrero, a senior theater major.
“He’s like an angel, he sets the characters’ lives back into balance,” he added.
Guerrero’s performance as Vic was touching and familiar.
He portrayed his character bravely and said that Vic’s personality closely resembled his own, which in consequence made some of the emotional scenes difficult for him.
Serret on the other hand felt that Judy’s personality was completely opposite form his own.
However, he handled the challenge beautifully and was able to draw some very emotional gasps from the audience.
The acting in this play was great including some phenomenal performances by Cuddy, who plays a prostitute who comes face to face with her own anger and Tanya Wilkins, who played Juel Laurie, a loopy neighbor that added a bit of comic relief.
“It’s all about surviving any way you can, and finding the humor in things,” said Serret, a senior theater major.
The play seemed to deeply resonate with those involved in the production and this showed through in each actor’s performance.
“I thought the play had a supernatural undertone that was a little mysterious,” said Jennifer Luna, a junior speech communications major.
All the characters in the play were redeemed at the end, however Muscle Man remained a mystery much to the dismay of audience members.
The play ended with a sobering conclusion that left the audience to ponder its meaning; the reasonable crowd of attendees dripped out of the theater with wonderment, but that was probably what Grimsley would have wanted.
Katie Hillier can be reached at email@example.com.