Dystopian drama ‘Civil’ receives sold out shows


Ali Fernand Features Editor 

The university’s theatre held their most recent production described as a “post-apocalyptic courtroom drama.” It took place on Nov. 17-19 with sold-out shows and a visit from the original writer.  

“It’s been insane, the response from the public has been overwhelmingly positive,” said the director of “Civil,” Benjamin Curns. 

The Kendall Drama Lab, where “Civil” took place, was completely transformed into an immersive set. Audience members were on either side of the stage with the five actors transferring their attention all around the room. Those who attended were given their own headphones to experience the play with

“The whole experience; wearing the headphones, getting to take part in what happened in the end,” said elementary education major Cora Welsh, a junior, who attended the show.   

Each of the two trials had audience members vote at the end. The fate of what happened to the characters depended on the audience’s decisions. The play gave a limited amount of information because this hypothetical technology was able to redact certain statements and questions.  

If a statement was redacted, actors would break out of character in a glitch like state. This would also lead the “Cursor” to confer with the council. This involved lots of different lighting and sound effects. 

“To put a show like this together requires a lot of commitment, effort and time,” Curns said.  

The show also introduced a world of new political issues. As technology develops, there will be a new set of problems for humans and law to deal with. The first case was a custody battle between characters Red and Green over an unborn fetus that was conceived 14 years prior.  

“It seemed like a controversial thing; the concept of abortion and childcare is still a hot button issue,” Matsushita said.  

A lot of “Civil” is inspired by popular media and political issues that have arisen because of technological growth. Matsushita said the concept for the play arose during a time of increasing media coverage. 

“Back in the 90s when the O.J. Simpson trial was about to get started, there was a discussion of how they were going to find the jury,” Matsushita said.  

In trials with high profile celebrities, it was hard to find people who would be impartial towards the case. The O.J. Simpson trial was a case where they struggled to find jurors because it was so highly publicized. “Civil” attempts to explore the solution to this problem through a jury who experiences trials virtually.   

“I said in my 20s because I was kind of a jerk, ‘the only way they’re going to find people is if 12 people happen to come out of comas at the exact same time,’” Matsushita said. 

The second half of the show is not exactly a murder trial. The fate of the murderer has already been decided, they will be sent to death row. However, the fate of the trial is if the murderer should be allowed to their consciousness in a hyper-corporeal unit. It was between the murder victim, Blue, and murderer, Orange.  

The end of the second act had a mysterious entity threatening the audience vote for Blue. They said that everyone in the jury was attached to life support, and they would die if they did not vote for Blue. This made the decision even harder for the audience.  

“That was the craziest show I’ve ever seen,” Welsh said. “I didn’t know whether to put my hand up or down.” 

During the two trials, the actors also would pause for “commercial breaks.” These included advertisements for hypothetical products that would exist in this world. This also included the same actors that are in the first and second trial.  

“It was very serious then it would cut to something that made me giggle,” Welsh said.  

This was a tone shift from the serious topics explored in the trials. The commercials were more comedic and high energy than the courtroom.  

“Civil” is a small production made by Matsushita, who works in customer service in his day-to-day life. He is not a full-time playwright, which makes the university’s production more special to him.  

“I’m not Neil Simon, I’m a regular dude. If someone does a production of one of my shows it’s a genuinely special thing,” Matsushita said.  

Matsushita said he tries to come to every production that he can go to. He traveled to the university all the way from Minnesota just to see this production. After his licensing agency contacted him about the university’s production, he contacted Curns about the show.  

“I found the director on Facebook and said ‘hey, I will totally come down and see this production,’” Matsushita said.  

Curns spent a lot of his nights preparing for this show. He said that he is relieved that he can finally have a night to relax and cook dinner at home.  

“I complain about it, but I will do it again next year,” Curns said. 

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