Play ascends to O’Connell Theatre

By Jessica Cabe

There’s a mountain on the O’Connell Theatre stage.

It was built as part of the set for The Ascent of F6, a play by W.H. Auden and Christopher Isherwood.

The Ascent of F6 will run Thursday through Sunday, Feb. 23 through 26 and March 1 through 4. Performances begin at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and 2 p.m. on Sunday at the O’Connell Theatre in the Stevens Building. Tickets are $16 for adults, $13 for seniors and $8 for students.

The show blends elements of reality and fantasy. Britain is in a power struggle for land with the fictional country of Ostnia. The “Haunted Mountain,” or F6, is the territory in question. The locals of the unclaimed land believe the mountain is haunted by a demon who will not allow any white man to reach the top. Because of this superstition, Ostnia is able to manipulate the people into believing whoever is the first white man to scale the mountain can claim the land. On the side of the British, James Ransom, played by MFA acting candidate Nick Roesler, and his political circle of friends formulate a plan to use his brother and experienced climber, Michael Ransom, played by MFA acting candidate Drew Mierzejewski, to beat the Ostnians to the top of F6, thus winning the land.

Michael’s reluctance to help his brother sets up the theme of family tension. Michael wants nothing to do with the politics of Britain or his brother. Ultimately, his decision to scale the mountain stems from a hallucination of his dead mother, who he believes has always favored James. Mrs. Ransom, played by MFA acting candidate Kendra Holton Helton, makes appearances throughout the show as Michael struggles with both his conscious and his ascent.

“The mother-son connection will always be relevant,” Helton said. “It’s relevant with Adam and Eve and Cain and Able.”

Another theme deals with the forces that drive humans to take action.

“It’s the thing inside of humans…that tells us to be original,” Helton said. “You see this in Michael as he ascends the mountain.” She cited the moon landings as one example in history of the human need for being the first to accomplish something.

One of the most interesting aspects of the show is the way in which multiple classes of society are represented and how they are affected by the race to the top of F6.

Mr. and Mrs. A, played by MFA acting candidate Dan O’Reilly and senior acting major Kate Booth, respectively, are a lower-middle class British couple struggling with the dull realities of their economic and personal situation. Mr. A hates his job, and Mrs. A feels ignored and unloved. The climbers and their sacrifice for the country inspires Mr. and Mrs. A to feel better about their own dire situation. The emotions that the ascent brings to the lives of middle-class British is significant as the play progresses and the mortality of the climbers is realized.

The second societal sphere affected by the ascent is the upper-class politicians. These people are happy to put the lives of others at risk, even James’s own brother, not for the people of Britain but for their own political reasons.

The third group is the climbers themselves, who face unthinkable challenges on their way to the top.

These themes of class and political motives is extremely relevant today. It is a timeless idea of the balance between trusting one’s government and being open to the realities of political motives. Most Americans can understand the heartbreak that Mr. and Mrs. A face as their idealism fades to reality.