Eastern Michigan University premiered its second production of the season with Jane Martin’s “Vital Signs,” in Sponberg Theatre on Sunday, Nov. 20.
“Vital Signs” is a collection of monologues combined with scenes containing music and dance that celebrates womanhood in all forms.
“‘Vital Signs’ is one of the most powerful productions I’ve seen in a long time,” said Patrick Takata, EMU sophomore and English major. “Every one of the actors brought out unique voices and engaged with the audience in a variety of ways from comic to tragic. It wasn’t just another play; it was like a shared experience between the audience and the actors. And it was different, and because it was different, it was engaging. One of my favorite shows in a long time.”
Every aspect of the play was very well done, without being showy or over-the-top. Director Pam Cardell knew just what to bring to our attention as an audience and just how to do it. The understated way that she directed attention was effective.
Matt Balch designed all the set pieces, lights and sound. Choreographer Cosette Hooda put the choreography together. Cast member Deanna Amaker coordinated the costumes and props. The music prominently featured in the production was by Meryn Cadell. It added a wonderful backbone to the experience.
These effects enhanced the overall impact of an already powerful show. Besides a table and chairs for a few of the monologues, and a bench and a few other set pieces, there was minimal baggage despite the three ladders along the back wall of the stage.
The production was showcased to its fullest potential by the eighteen cast members, one of the strongest overall casts I’ve seen in my time at Eastern. They carried themselves with dignity, poise and a palpable authenticity that made every scenario a learning experience.
Besides all of the interesting features happening within the play itself, there were two very compelling activities happening before and during the performance: thirty minutes before the show began, a pre-show performance took place, featuring the musical and oratory talents of members of the cast.
During the pre-show, actors came around to members of the audience, asking for donations for SafeHouse Center–Domestic Violence Project. Anyone who donated was given a raffle ticket, and then while the show was in progress, student Christine Franzen created a stunningly beautiful live art piece, which was then given to the lucky winner.
“Working on ‘Vital Signs’ was a unique and wonderful experience. The collaborative spirit of the group was inspiring and engaging. It was so much fun to bring spoken word, movement work and other non-traditional styles into a theatre piece,” said Alex Duncan, “Vital Signs” actor, EMU junior, theatre major.