By Autumn McLeod
Stony Brook University’s department of Theatre Arts kicked off the season with the comical play, “Bike America.” The production, which consisted of a small cast of six students, had the audience in laughter with its dark humor and sarcasm.
The play follows a 27-year-old woman named Penny, played by Amanda Murphy, who becomes tired of the life she lives in Boston. She is currently in graduate school and is being forced into a relationship with a man who she does not claim to be her boyfriend.
Penny gets tired of her “boyfriend” Todd, played by freshman Carty Caruso, and decides to go on a bike tour across the United States for cancer without any preparation. She is under the impression that this three month bike tour is a way for her to escape her hometown and become the lady adventurer that she refers to as the “female Tom Sawyer”.
As Penny bikes across the US from Boston to Arizona, she comes across a group of millennials and a man with a van who tells Penny that she cannot run away from herself. Although Penny wants to find a place to call home and not have to make any decisions, she ends up with a life of regret with no room for love.
“Bike America” was written by Mike Lew who is the co-director of the Ma-Yi Writers Lab, the largest collective of Asian-American playwrights in the country. He has received numerous awards such as the New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship in playwriting and is a Sam French Festival winner.
Lew has also done a lot of workshops with his playwrights, some of which were at Julliard, Washington DC, Philly, Milwaukee and Atlanta. Lew gained a lot of his experience firsthand.
“I think a lot of grad programs are really good at teaching writers how to write, but there are very few production opportunities and so a lot of my peers; when they get their first production off Broadway or something its really overwhelming,” said Lew. “I think that a lot of my early training was just doing these 10 minute plays and kind of getting a lot of rehearsal experience.”
Lew teamed up with Kara-Lynn Vaeni, director of “Bike America” and faculty member at Stony Brook. Vaeni has directed productions and workshops at NYC Fringe, Yale Repertory Theatre, Dallas Theatre Center and many more.
Vaeni had creative reign over the production which included the actors’ idea to use handle bars with one wheel as opposed to a whole bicycle so that the actors could move freely on stage.
“My first thought was that it would all be stationary bikes that they would be riding on because we really like the sound of the wheels going around, but then that’s so boring after a while,” said Vaeni. “We just sawed the bikes in half.”
The actors had just as much fun with the bicycle props as Vaeni did, but more importantly, they enjoyed their craft.
“The thing that’s actually cool about acting is there’s so many things that are written in the script that are given to you but the really cool part is you get to supplement that with your own ideas and stories,” said Kristie Connor who plays the millennial, Rorie. “You collaborate with the director and the cast so it’s really cool.”