The Mill Theater began its fall program with a production of “Defying Gravity” and left viewers engulfed in a story because of engaging characters.
“Defying Gravity” was written on how the tenth flight of NASA’s second space shuttle orbiter broke apart 73 seconds into the air, killing the seven crew members on board. Among the crew was Christa McAuliffe, set to be the first teacher to go to space. NASA’s failure left the nation stunned and in mourning, which led Jane Anderson to organize a variety of storylines to intertwine and make sense of the hardship.
The narrative also shined a light on a retired couple named Betty (Rebecca Munoz) and Ed (Edmond Burkhart), who amusingly bickered their way cross country to visit and photograph as many tourists sites as they could. They ended up in Cocoa Beach, Florida, where observing the Challenger launch redefined the value of their marriage.
Playgoers additionally met characters Cece (Marissa Banker) and Donna (Brianna Key). Cece was a ground crew worker for NASA, and loved to stop by the bar that Donna worked at after a long day in hopes to sleep with her after her shift. Donna’s bar was home to an abundance of NASA employees and astronauts, which proceeded for her to develop strong connections to those involved with the Challenger disaster. This took a toll on Cece and Donna’s relationship as they fought to not blame themselves or each other for the incident.
Elizabeth’s mom was simply referred to as the Teacher (Lauren Carr), and maintained the heart and soul of the show. She was a powerful but still ordinary woman, who was terrified of the unknown but braved intensive training to achieve her dreams. She cherished her family and education, and her courageous experiences and impact left a mark on spectators of the play that they could always carry with them.
Student director Michael Shutack, who has previously contributed to The Leader, explained his motives for directing as a learning experience for him and his co-director.
“Well, my co-director (Dorband) and I want to direct in the future. He wants to be a professional director while I want to direct shows as a high school teacher. We both thought student directing would be great experience for us.”
Shutack’s choice to adapt “Defying Gravity” to the stage came as a result of getting a copy of the play’s script and being compelled to make his own adaptation.
“My cousin performed in Defying Gravity when she was in high school. I didn’t see that production but I heard great things about it. Taylor and I read my cousin’s copy of the script and fell in love with the show.”
The seven person cast gave a stellar performance, and worked off each other in harmony to captivate their audience. The production ran through Sept. 14-16, and initiated a high bar to be set for the rest of Elmhurst College’s theatre season.