“Under Milk Wood” was Over My Head

By Daniel Morgan, Contributing Writer

Tik tok, tik tok, tik tok.” The Hilltop Players opened their production of Dylan Thomas’ play, “Under Milk Wood,” on Feb. 12 at WLU’s Kelly Theater.

Through heavy lyrical dialogue and imagery, “Under Milk Wood” tells the story of the residents of a small Welsh fishing village while exposing their innermost thoughts and secrets over the course of twenty-four hours. One-by-one cast members file onto the stage to take their sleeping positions on the intricate boardwalk set. The last three of the eighteen members of the ensemble appear to tell the audience that they are watching their dreams.

After this introduction the cast awakens and transforms into thirty five different characters to tell the intricate story of the townspeople and all of their secrets. Through the themes of sex, death, and time, as well as the interchanging perspectives between childhood and adulthood, the story unfolds in one uninterrupted act.

The entire ensemble gives an impressive performance. Actors switch back and forth between children and adults with remarkable ease. There are also some funny moments in between the drama that make it difficult for the audience to control their laughter. With no props it is refreshing to see the actors portray the very thing that they are talking about. Perhaps the most impressive part of the show is when the time changes and the characters “become” clocks.  One at a time, each performer is set to chime a different noise until the air is roaring with simultaneous ticking, ringing, and dinging.  

Directed by Maggie Balsley, WLU theater professor and award-winning graduate of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, the convincing cast includes the following WLU students in alphabetical order: Elijah Boyles, Michelle Campbell, Adrienne Castellucci, Elizabeth Conley, Jordan Connor, Maggie Dillon, Geena Diomedi, Brady Dunn, Doug Gouldsberry, Laurna Grubb, Andrew Harper, Zac Morris, Maura Reiff, Ben Rogers, Jedediah Shook, Jordyn Smith, Christian Witt, and Ingrid Young.

The look and style of the production truly make it unique. The stunning set, made of connecting boardwalks, along with the seagull and nautical sound effects before the play starts, make the whole experience believable. Costume choice is an important factor as well. Having everyone look similar in nearly all black outfits allows the audience to focus on the performance itself rather than on what the actors are wearing.

With all of that said, the entire show is overpowered by distractions. During most of the show all eighteen cast members are on the stage at the same time telling the story. Having that many people on stage is overwhelming at times and makes it hard to focus because a lot of the actors are still moving in place while the other actors are speaking. Since the actors are playing more than one part in the show it is almost impossible to distinguish the characters from one another.

The plot suffers because of all of the confusion.  Between the intricate dialogue and shuffling around, it does not take long for one to wonder, “What’s going on?” The plot soon flies right over the average person’s head, leaving them with no clue as to what they just saw.

Despite these problems, “Under Milk Wood” is still worth seeing, and the time flies by. So see it now before it disappears. Tickets can be purchased online wlumilkwood.brownpapertickets.com or call the WLU Ticket Office at 304-336-8277.