WSU Theatre production finds humor in catastrophe through ‘The Search’


Tanat Maichan

Brock James is a senior majoring in Theater. He plays as Taylor who is Ned’s best friend.

“The Search” is a play about what happens when the people you live closest to find out you’re missing — nothing. They don’t care. In fact, their lives are better now that you’re gone. The show is like Seinfeld if Newman went missing.

WSU’s latest comedy, and winner of its 44th annual college playwright competition, is making its stage debut in the Welsbacher Theatre with a script by Elizabeth Crino.  The play is a hyper-exaggerated tale documenting the millennial struggle of four 20-somethings sharing an apartment with acquaintances and “randos” that they really don’t even like. Beth, portrayed by junior Emily Graves, is a straight-laced psychologist with dead-pan delivery. A pair of siblings, portrayed by sophomore Nora Dooley and junior Lance Vaillancourt, play off of each other with effortless comedic and emotional precision. And then there is Ned, playfully portrayed by sophomore TJ Wade, whose disappearance initiates the action – or rather, inaction – of the play.

When the play opens, it’s been a week since the disappearance. Ned’s roommates only notice because the dishes have started to pile up. With the news of his possible disappearance, they all decide to wait it out, mainly because of the inconvenience that Ned has caused them by going missing.

The characters are ridden with anxieties that they’re all trying to bury. The two female roomies are just starting their post-college, debt-filled lives. Sarah’s little brother Ted sleeps on the couch with a controller in his hand. As the characters carry on, and eventually begin to crumble under their four walls, they stress less about where Ned is than they fear when he is coming home to pop their universal bubble of blissful ignorance. They even devolve into verbally competing to out-hate Ned and Ted reveals that, with his “sick and twisted murder-brain,” he once sabotaged one of Ned’s meals with Ned’s deadly poison: peanuts. A “Peanuts Are in the Show” sign is duct-taped to the entry-way doors of the “black box theatre,” implying that not even the production crew could stand to have Ned anywhere near the set.

“Ned’s kind of like an assignment you missed a week ago,” Vaillancourt reveals. “Every time you go into class you’re reminded that you’re late on the thing but you just don’t deal with it.”

“Except in my case,” Dooley continues. “It’s like I’m running away from class once I realized that I didn’t do it.”

The show starts off witty and off-beat but bleeds into farce when Taylor, portrayed by Senior Christian Brock James, walks in. Taylor is nerve-racking and neurotic. As soon as he enters, it’s obvious there’s something off about the guy as he attempts to pass off unseasoned Ramen as “get better soup,” in true college fashion. His entrance is when we truly start to question the rest of the cast and their involvement with Ned’s disappearance. Did one of the roommates kill Ned? Did crazy-eyed Christian Brock James have something to do with it?

Mariah Clements and Lance Vaillancourt both started in the WSU theater department as prop-masters in 2015’s “Wrong Window.” Both have come a long way, with Vaillancourt in a starring role and Clements giving her directorial debut. Rounding out the crew is Makenzie Hercules as stage manager, costume designer Jacob Kramer, and set designer Hayley Utter. Ali Miró handles lighting, and her brilliance comes to life during a particularly memorable and surreal dream sequence.

Both the crew and the cast make something wonderful out of a show that, despite being titled “The Search,” features little-to-no searching. They only have their selfish souls to investigate and, in absence of a scapegoat, they’re all forced to blame each other. With absurd dedication put in by the cast and crew, the script features the show’s only flaw. While it starts off hitting several high-notes satirizing sitcom structure, it plummets into uncontrolled anarchy during the climax that doesn’t quite do its former half justice. Ultimately, “The Search” leaves the audience still looking for answers. However, its delightful randomness still makes “The Search” one hell of a ride.