By Celica Cook, SBM Student Life Editor
Messiah’s Department and Theatre and Dance took the stage last weekend in a striking performance of W;t, a play about the journey of one woman’s struggle with ovarian cancer.
W;t was dedicated to Messiah nursing student Emily Ransil who tragically passed away last month after a long battle with cancer. The show was an honor to her memory, and an important tribute to the difficult journey she went through.
The show was directed by Ed Cohn, associate professor of theatre. Bryanna Pye, a junior, played the lead role of Vivian Bearing, a literary scholar of John Donne’s seventeenth-century metaphysical poetry.
W;t is a timeline of the events that took place in Vivian Bearing’s life in the days leading up to her final moments. Through Bearing’s experience, the audience was able to empathize with the experience of a cancer patient. How often do we consider what they might be going through day by day? This play gave the audience a glimpse of what dying from cancer feels like. It is a call to action as much as it is a performance.
The show begins with a simple introduction from the lead character, Vivian Bearings. “Hello,” she says weakly. It is a deeply humanizing line. She is dressed in a simple striped hospital gown. Her bare head is wrapped up in a scarf. Her features are pale and worn. Pye plays an excellent Vivian with all the grace and raw talent that we have seen in the roles she has done in past shows. This role, however, deserves extra applause as Pye takes on the difficult task of embodying the heart and soul of a suffering cancer patient with precision, and flawless artistry.
As the play progresses, Vivian’s cancer rapidly starts to break her down in both body and in spirit. The once proud female scholar is forced to rely on others for her care. She is in constant pain and is too weak to accomplish small tasks on her own. The scenes leading up to Vivian’s death are difficult to watch, as the audience must endure Vivian’s suffering with her. The layers of Vivian’s complex humanity unfold as the cancer slowly breaks her down, and suddenly she is reminded of how very human she is, and how very vulnerable that makes her. It is a harsh realization that reminds her of her mortality.
I would not describe this show as one that is comfortable to watch. The rawness of the material right down to the grim simplicity of the set added to the somber feelings of the show. The show did not leave the audience with a warm fuzzy feeling in their stomach after the night was over. It had the opposite effect—bringing a tear to almost every eye, tugging at people’s hearts.
For more information about upcoming shows, visit Messiah College Theatre Department’s website at https://www.messiah.edu/info/22089/upcoming_events.