By Kelly Stephens
A revenge plan ten years in the making is the premise for “The Secret Sufferer,” a play led by the College’s very own All College Theatre (ACT), a student-run organization.
With performances on April 22 and April 23 at 8 p.m. in the Library Auditorium, “The Secret Sufferer” is based on the classic murder mystery — but with a twist.
Instead of finding out who the murderer is, the cast members and the audience were challenged to predict which character dies at the end of the play.
For senior interactive multimedia major and the play’s creator Dustin Marino, who has been involved in the student theatre group for the past four years, he wanted to think of how to best create a “reverse murder mystery.”
“I came up with the premise of a reverse murder mystery, and I was thinking, ‘How would that work?’” Marino said. “So instead of figuring out who the murderer is, you’re figuring out who the victim is.”
The play contains a series of well-placed flashbacks that reveal the motivations of the murderer, Billy, for why he had decided to strike down one of the characters in the play.
With an ensemble cast of eight that includes the murderer, two married high school teachers, a bully, a goth who can’t be bothered with human interaction, two high school sweethearts and a would-be social media influencer, “The Secret Sufferer” is laugh-out-loud funny, with well-placed flashbacks and a fourth wall break intended to entertain the audience.
Midway through the play, the audience was given the opportunity to ask the cast members questions in order to better understand the motivations of Billy and guess which character he would kill at the end of the play.
Marino was particularly pleased that the audience had interacted so well with the cast.
“I’m really happy about the turnout, and the interaction with the audience,” Marino said. “I think the questions [from the audience] were really good, they asked some things that we didn’t expect. We all asked a couple of things during practice, what they might ask and they actually asked things that we didn’t think of, so that was really cool.”
Sophomore journalism and professional writing major Asaka Park was particularly impressed with how the actors were able to stay in character.
“I was pretty impressed with the interactive elements of [the play] because the actors were able to stay in character throughout the interactive elements,” Park said. “It was really good improv on their part. They were really able to improvise at the snap of a finger.”
Prior to the show, the cast created a Google survey that allowed the audience to vote on who they thought would be killed and why, which further connected the audience and the cast.
Junior mechanical engineering major Angel Solano praised the interactive elements of the play, and said he particularly enjoyed how he was kept on his toes for the majority of the play.
“It was definitely interesting. The interactive part, the whole asking questions bit, was pretty fun,” Solano said. “It kind of keeps you on your toes as the audience, so it offers more viewership and more attentiveness.”
For many audience members, it was a toss-up between who did and who didn’t predict the ending of the play.
For Solano, when asked if he predicted the murder victim at the end of the play, he said he didn’t accurately guess who would be slain in the end.
“Definitely not,” Solano said. “Which I feel like is a good job, because you did something that's unpredictable, where your goal is to have that twist, then I feel like you just did your job well.”
Other audience members, like Park, were spot-on in their predictions.
“I predicted the ending. I knew it was going to be one of the teachers,” Park said. “A lot of times, teachers sometimes turn a blind eye when kids are struggling and that’s a really painful thing. I also think that there was some societal commentary in it.”
While Marino’s play was lighthearted, it also carried a much deeper meaning.
In the second half of the play, the audience learns of Billy’s traumatic past and what led him to where he is today. Coming from an abusive home without anyone to confide in during his high school years, Billy turned to taking his pain out on the people who he felt prevented him from being happy.
“When I write something, I want it to have an actual meaning.” Marino said.
Through the suffering that Billy endures, the play revealed the impact that bullying has on people and how the topic of bullying is still perceived as unspoken and taboo.
“I feel like we talk about a lot in society, but it’s never in a serious context,” Solano said, “and we kind of just glaze over it, but this kind of makes you realize that it’s everywhere.”