'The Metal Children' clang on stage


Matthew Kline as Bruno Binnelli, with his client Tobin Falmouth

What is art? Who has a right to determine what is appropriate? How far is too far? Should life imitate art? Most importantly, what rights does an author have over his or her own work once readers get their hands on it?

“The Metal Children,” directed by senior Evan Hallman, asks all of these questions and keeps one searching, whether or not there is just one answer.

The play, written by Adam Rapp, focuses its attention on novelist Tobin Falmouth (Tim Hippensteel) who is in a rut. Or, as he calls it, “artistic impotence.”

His novel, “The Metal Children,” is currently being contested in the small town of Midlothia. At the advice of his agent Bruno (Matthew Kline) and after a passionate letter written by the head of the English department, Stacey Kinsella, (Cory Stevens) he goes to visit and finds himself in a place where things are all too familiar.

His novel centers around a city where young women are becoming pregnant and disappearing shortly after.

Meredith Miller, the heroine of the novel, becomes a symbol in the town, representing ideals of suicide, pregnancy and inspiring a cult-like fraction to begin forming.

At Falmouth’s arrival, he realizes that the young women of the town are getting pregnant, there is a group of people running around in pig masks terrorizing the town (a reference to his own book) and there is a vault in the local church that is holding all copies of his book, as if it were a volatile weapon (many member of the church seem to believe it is).

He is aided by the local owner of The Blue Moon Hotel, Edith Dundee (Ashley Stoudnour), and meets Edith’s niece, Vera Dundee (Kimberly MacAlister) who is spearheading the movement to keep the novel in schools which are obviously passionate about the cause.

He is also joined by Otto Hurley (Daniel Lindgren) the head of the school board, as well as performances by freshman Jessica Lavallee in the roles of Lynne, Cooper and Nurse, as well as sophomore Zachary Clark as Kong, Pig Mask Boy and Boy X.

The story twists and turns like a play should, eliciting gasps from the audience. I thought I saw several jaws hit the floor at certain scenes along with shocked whispers.

Despite the serious plot and subject matter, there were funny and downright awkward moments as well, highlighting a realistic sort of world in a fantastical show.

I was impressed by the type of portrayal of realism and especially in the individual performances. Stevens’ performance as Kinsella, an idealistic bibliophile and free-thinker, was heartfelt and lovingly endearing.

His comedic timing was also spot-on and more often than not, his expressions were enough to get the audience to respond.

For Hippensteel, what a better way to start his theater career here at Shippensburg, then by taking the lead role of Tobin Falmouth? Honest in Falmouth’s struggle and imperfection, Hippensteel brought life to this quirky and quite unpredictable character.

It was a fresh change of pace to have this lead not necessarily be the man you would want to date, but maybe the one you would like to have coffee with on Sunday afternoons.

Also, I found Carolyn Webster’s performance of Roberta Cupp and Emmaline Johnson’s performance of Tami Lake to be perfect.

The “uppity” idealistic nature of these religious characters was strong enough to portray an entire viewpoint of the town of Midlothia, even with their short time on stage.

“The Metal Children” leaves the audience with bigger questions then answers and the realization of just what words can mean and what people should do with the ideas that authors create.

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