On Thursday night, award-winning playwright Mike Lew appeared at the Staller Center’s first show of 2015 to watch his own play, “Bike America,” in action.
“Bike America” took its audience on a colorful, laughter-filled journey across the United States as they watched its performers travel from Boston to Santa Barbara. They stopped in cities like New York, Austin and Memphis along the way during the performance.
Some play goers were leaning forward on their seats, admiring how the playwright, director, technical crew and performers were transporting them throughout the states on such a small stage.
The crew was able to use lighting and sound to represent Penny, the play’s main character, being hit by a truck driver.
Additionally, the lighting crew was able to represent each state the set was entering by flashing a bulb on a map; the audience was able to visualize the distance the story took the characters across the United States once each bulb was lit.
“I thought the character Penny had a love-hate kind of personality but I thought that the story was very relatable. At times I hated Penny [the main character], but then I loved her,” Cristian Maraver, a student taking an introduction to theatre class at Stony Brook, said.
Members of the audience applauded the production.
The majority of the crowd remained seated after the show for a question and answer session.
Professor Kenneth Weitzman hosted the Q&A session. He began by opening up with a few questions touching upon Lew’s influences, visions and expectations of the performance.
Lew said that there were some “aspects that [he] could still work on” and that his play has “changed a lot since the first draft.” Lew was happy to notice that the performance included a lot from his original script that other directors sometimes choose to leave out.
Weitzman then opened up the interview to the play’s director, Kara-Lynn Vaeni.
When asked about her original plan to incorporate bikes into the set, Vaeni said that her “first thought was to use stationary bikes,” but after seeing people on them in the gym, she realized, “that was just so boring.”
After brainstorming a few other possibilities, she arrived at the idea of just cutting the bikes in half.
Reducing the size of the bikes seemed to work wonders for the set. Instead of riding bicycles across the stage, each cast member held on to the handlebars and one wheel of a bike that was cut-in-half.
These props almost resembled unicycles, but the actors mimicked riding a bike by moving their feet constantly throughout each act.
When the script would have them speed up, they would lean forward on their bikes and run, when they were riding up a hill they would lift their bikes up, and when they needed to slow down, they would move their feet casually.
Performing “Bike America” gave the university’s actors the opportunity to work with and perform in front of an award-winning playwright, something they collectively described as a “wonderful experience.”
“Bike America” performances will run until Sunday, March 8. The show plays on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m.
Tickets are $10 for students with Stony Brook I.D. and $20 for general admission.