c/o Vincent Langan

c/o Vincent Langan

“Oh, Muffy!”—one of two original plays performed during the Spring Festival of New Theater Works—follows a group of parents in New York City’s Upper East Side as they grapple with the fallout of their children starting a white supremacist organization in their high school. The biting drawing-room comedy forces people to look in the mirror and think about their own privilege. It was written by Vincent Langan ’24, directed by Hadassa Garfein ’24, and performed as a staged reading in the Ring Family Performing Arts Hall on Friday, April 12 and Saturday, April 13 at 6 p.m. 

As the parents find out that their children have started a white supremacist organization, Muffy (Nora Butler ’24), panics about the idea of losing her social status because of a New York Post article coming out about the racist club. Muffy’s babysitter, Jodie (Paige Merril ’26), suggests that she and her group of rich and clueless parents invite a diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) consultant, Keisha (Sadie Goldstein ’24), to help them navigate the situation. However, things spiral out of control and eventually, Keisha—a white woman who has no idea she’s white—calls for the extermination of all white people, leading Jodie to take the fall for the creation of the student group. In an incredible twist, Jodie happens to be a Rockefeller in disguise, which allows her to take responsibility for the creation of the white supremacist club without damaging her social capital.

Muffy, the titular character and queen bee of the pretentious parents, is joined by Geneva Chao-Gossing (Fana Schoen ’24), a ditzy mother who accidentally gives her children ADHD medication instead of candy, and Caleb Wilke (Cameron Scott ’24), a snooty Upper East Side father always dressed in the finest mink coats, who Scott played with a hilarious and ridiculous level of French sophistication.

Each of the actors’ skills lent themselves well to the style of drawing-room comedy. Developed in the Victorian era, drawing-room comedies focus on upper-class people having conversations with guests in their living rooms (drawing rooms at the time). Langan discussed why he chose this specific form of comedy for “Oh, Muffy!” 

“I used the drawing room form, which is a sort of antiquated form of comedy and farce, to unearth greater American anxieties in the ways we skirt around issues of racism, particularly in learned white liberal spaces,” Langan said. “That form is really ripe with opportunities to play with code and code-switching and the linguistic ways that we protect ourselves or incriminate ourselves.”

Even though comedies bring humor and lightheartedness to whatever topics they spotlight, Langan touched on the ways that this form of theater also creates space for people to have serious conversations. 

“I think it’s a really creative way to discuss social issues,” Langan said. “It’s like confining these characters to one location. But also it was a challenge for me that I was very excited about, writing a comedy that could be broadly enjoyed but never lacked specificity and never lacked a driving focus.” 

While the play itself doesn’t draw on any specific experiences Langan had, he did attend a prep school and decided to adopt that location as the backdrop for this play. New York City was intentionally chosen as the setting because of its reputation for being home to an overwhelmingly liberal population. 

“I love the specificity of New York, and I’ve always been enchanted by New York’s gilded communities,” Langan said. “I think setting this play in New York City, a haven for liberal and progressive types, and having their very identity challenged when we live in identity-obsessed times, I thought New York [was] the perfect location to explore that.”

Langan is no stranger to the University theater scene, having directed numerous plays with Garfein by his side—the pair most recently directed a production of Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ “Gloria” which went up on Friday, April 26, and Saturday, April 27—and had been looking forward to applying his experience in theater to write a play of his own for a capstone project. 

“I’d always wanted to do some sort of cumulative playwriting project, and so I decided to partner with [Assistant] Professor [of Theater] Edwin Sanchez, who was instrumental [and] one of the sole reasons that this play was able to be presented to the community but also was still coherent and cohesive but also heartfelt and meaningful and had all those things wrapped up in one,” Langan said. 

The cast and crew only spent around 10 hours rehearsing for the production before they went right into tech week. The show was stage-managed by Peyton Brill ’26, who also handled all of the lighting, sound, props, and other technical aspects of the production. Langan was incredibly grateful to work with such an amazing  cast and crew. 

“At one point, someone who saw the show said to me, ‘I forgot they were holding binders the whole time,’” Langan said. “It’s just the actors were so one like perfectly in their own world. Obviously, [that’s a] testament to our actors, who were all so incredible and just every one of those actors is like one of the best performers we have on campus, and not just dramatic acting but comedy as well.” 

Langan commented on how using satire to understand liberalism allows us to slow down and think more critically about how we as a society react to social justice movements and how we can be more intentional about our actions and reactions. 

“I think it’s a satirical look…at how easily voices can co-opt social justice movements, especially going through my senior year of high school in our Lord’s year of 2020, where we were told silence is violence,” Langan said. “But I think Muffy challenges this idea of your silence is violence because sometimes, the more you overdo things and overthink things, and don’t think critically about what you’re fighting for or what your values are, you’re adding more mess, you’re adding more noise pollution. I think we need to be more conscious and more thoughtful and attentive to what it is we actually want to accomplish in really trying political times, in socially turbulent times.”

This notion is especially important here on campus, and the characters in “Oh, Muffy!” allow us to understand the ways in which we as students react to the world around us and the ways in which we’re similar and different from the ridiculous parents of the show. 

“I think it presents this sort of appealingly warped mirror to Wesleyan students where…we can identify with these characters, but, more importantly, really dis-identify with some of their qualities,” Langan said. “This play shows these characters, warts and all, and I think it encourages us not to write off people or put people in absolute value or absolute terms. People are complex, people mess up…. Sometimes to better understand a human being, you have to turn…[them] into cartoons and you have to put them in a satirical ridiculous highly stylized form so that we let [our] guards down.” 

This performance wasn’t the last the world will see of “Oh, Muffy!” Langan plans to continue writing the script and to stay involved in the theatrical world after graduation. 

“I don’t really have any huge graduation plans, but I hope to be located in the tri-state area,” Langan said. “I have to be in New York City and be able to keep creating art and keep being in community with artists.” 

Elizabeth Laurence contributed reporting.

Caleb Henning can be reached at chenning@wesleyan.edu.