“Smack the Stack” Slaps Around at the CRC Lounge
What exactly went on in the Old Squash Courts this weekend is unclear. It can only be confirmed that “Smack the Stack,” the Wesleyan curtain call for Alek Barkats ’12 and Howe Pearson ’12, emerged to unanimous audience praise. It was undeniably hilarious. The post-show smattering of approval went like this:
“I knew it was going to be fucking weird, but I did not expect it to be so fucking hilarious.”
“Goddamnit, I love those guys.”
“What the hell were they on???” and
“Man, that’s a sexy cast.”
Through the veil of ambiguity, we know that the play was a murder mystery populated by anthropomorphized playing cards. Jake Schofield ’12 played the Jack who believes his father, the suicidal King—and have you ever stopped, truly, to think about why that drawn K in the deck looks so dour and is stabbing himself?—might not have offed himself after all. From there, it was courtroom madness, and it was totally absurd.
According to Barkats, about 60% of the final product was actually written down, and the rest was improvised from within the same general skeleton. It changed from night to night to night. Four days before the show went up, for instance, Barkats decided his sad and serious narrator had to be up-tempo and nuts. And maybe Australian. That last bit came out in the open on the show’s second night when he asked himself, the audience, the cast, and whoever the hell had cared to wonder: “What the fuck is this accent, anyway? Is it Australian, British, what?” As with basically every other line, we all laughed intensely together.
All in all, many lessons can be taken from the experiment that was “Smack the Stack,” a show so new it did not really exist a couple of weeks ago.
“Freshman year I took Acting I, and one of the assignments was to write a play,” Barkats said. “I wrote a play called ‘Play.’ It was a short one act with three card-people: an Ace, a Two, and a Three. The Ace was silent. It was existential, pretty much. I always wanted to do something more with that. So since Howe and I had done the Murder Mystery (a similarly wacky one-act about some nasty foul play) together, we decided to give it a go again, but do it through Second Stage—for funding.”
With only four weeks to go before the show was set to open, Pearson pushed Barkats to get serious about making the production a reality. The show was cast (with only 4 weeks to go?!?), a read-through was held, and ideas were aired. Then, nothing much happened until Barkats, uncomfortable in his authoritarian role as Director, urged everyone together two weeks before curtain for the first real rehearsals. Luckily for him, Pearson began to call the shots the week before the show opened, and like a magic trick, it all came together in time for the last run through.
Dahlia Azran ’13 described that night, and the production in general:
“It’s a group of best friends having fun playing around together.”
Asked who was the funniest of them all, though, she did not hesitate to hierarchize.
“Jordan Lewis ’13 is my favorite. I could watch him sweep floors for hours—and will, when he is my housemate next year,” she said.
Barkats also emphasized that the goofiness the audience saw was a product of how much fun the cast was having together. He gives major props to the actors involved who made their theatrical debuts in “Smack the Stack,” including lead man Schofield.
While audiences might have been both amused and bewildered at this combination talk show, magic show, and murder show, hilarity seemed to win out in everyones’ minds.
As audience dignitary Sylvie Stein ’12 said, “[Smack the Stack] just felt like I was taking a roller coaster ride through the mind of Alek Barkats, which has been on my bucket list for four years now.”