Comedy is hard and Natalia Cuevas, a fifth semester graduate acting major, knows it.
“To be honest, comedy is one of the harder genres to get away with, and farce is so specific in nature that there’s almost a science to it. I’ve never quite been able to grasp that science, so this production was my first attempt at it,” Cuevas said.
Cuevas plays Lucienne in Connecticut Repertory Theatre’s upcoming farcical production, “An Absolute Turkey,” which will be in its final dress rehearsal tonight. She is no stranger to the stage, CRT’s or otherwise, having received her undergraduate degree in acting from Notre Dame.
Taking on a farce is more involved than it appears. There are intrinsic historical details that comedies play on in their writing that speak to a different time. One might think that unless someone is an expert of any particular socio-political time frame, the comedy in that producton would fall flat to contemporary audiences. Having attended a rehearsal earlier this week, as well as interviewing Cuevas, I found that students and faculty in and around the production were none the less guffawing.
“Farce is a type of comedy that is often associated with French theatre at the turn on the 20th century,” Cuevas said. “It uses absurd situations to highlight some of the darker sides of human nature- lust, greed, envy, etc. Farce tells a story of highly improbable events through the use of extreme physicality, archetypes, mistaken identity and other comedic conventions.”
One doesn’t think to themselves how to make another laugh on a regular basis, unless maybe they’re a comedian. There is so much that is considered in a comedic production, and it may require a bit more preparation than others. In a tragedy, someone usually dies, and it’s tragic and everyone in the room knows it… but with comedy, there isn’t any inherent flag that tips off the audience telling them ‘this is a joke, now laugh!’ more easily identifiable in comparison to a death on the stage.
“Humor is tricky because it's very easy to overact. The easiest trap to fall into is to play at being sad, or to pretend to be confused,” Cuevas said, “I can exaggerate my facial expressions and sob hysterically, but unless there is truth riding underneath it, the humor will not shine through.”
To avoid overacting, there is a considerable amount of time invested in research on the play.
“A ton of research. I had just over seven weeks to prepare for this role, and the most important thing I've found in terms of process is making sure I'm immersing myself into the world our characters live in. What was Paris like in 1896? How did women dress? How did women move? Speak? Interact with other women? With men? It's about specificity. Would they shake hands or simply nod? Would their corsets be tight-laced or loose-laced? Trust me, it makes a big difference in how you start to find your character,” Cuevas said. “I feel more aware of myself in terms of timing, which is a huge thing for my growth as an actor. I'm good at mastering text- I'm not as good as mastering situations. Working on a farce has been really helpful in terms of developing that.”
In recent weeks, there may have been a lot to stress, but “An Absolute Turkey,” and comedies of the like provide an opportunity to let go of a lot of the stress people might be feeling, Cuevas said.
“It's fun and it's funny and it's lighthearted and to be honest I think the world is really hurting right now and people could use a good laugh,” said Cuevas.
“An Absolute Turkey” will be at the Harriet Jorgensen Theatre from Dec. 1 to 10, check the CRT website for times and tickets.
Matthew Gilbert is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.