Fish Project Play Festival Spring 2021 – Replacing Linda

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In this new world where the virtual stage is the only platform for theatre available, many shows face the challenge of how well they will translate from the stage to someone’s screen. Fortunately, Replacing Linda by Kimberly Barger sidesteps this challenge and completely embraces the virtual form. Written for Zoom, Replacing Linda was performed as part of the Muhlenberg Theatre Association’s Fish Project Play Festival.

The play involves two coworkers, Megan and Wade, who are conducting virtual interviews to fill the assistant position, which Linda, who the two seemingly adored, has recently vacated. Megan is a put-together businesswoman, and Wade is absolutely clueless about technology, which leads to lots of humor.

Megan was played by Castelle Eskin ’22, who nailed her role as leader of the company and balanced the character’s sweetness with her serious moments well. As Wade, Daliah Bernstein ’21 did a superb job of embodying Wade’s character and had great comedic timing in the role. Eskin and Bernstein played off of each other wonderfully, and the banter between them kept the energy of the play up throughout its run time.

The rest of the cast also gave excellent performances. The two interview candidates, Ashley, a social media influencer, and Jackson, a hacker not-so-secretly on the run from the FBI, are polar opposites to each other, and the fabulous work from Kira Safier ’24 and Nicholas Pierron ’24 served this contrast well. They both had a great presence in their roles, completely embodying the characters. Julianne Lucas ’24 played Linda, whose appearance in the play was a fun reveal for the audience. She was charming and sweet, perfectly capturing Linda’s grandmotherly personality.

The work from designers Benjamin Goldstone ‘24, Ashley Pillsbury ‘24 and Celeste Samson ’22. Even though the designers only had a small Zoom square to work with, their work made the most of the space. They completely created the characters and their living spaces naturally. Even though the characters were exaggerated, the work from the designers did a phenomenal job of keeping the play grounded in reality.

In addition to the play being written for Zoom, the Fish Project Play Festival production used the technology at its disposal in several other effective ways. The direction from Emily Burns ’22 was well thought-out and clever, having actors use different camera angles and physicality to completely embody the characters. The small parts of each character’s home were also used completely to give the audience more information about them. The production also had audience members in the Zoom webinar serve as the “Board of Directors” for the interviews, allowing for them to contribute comments and questions for the interview candidates. There was even a poll at the end of the play for a vote on which candidate they thought was best. Seeing the notifications in the Zoom chat from the “Board of Directors” was at times a bit distracting, but the payoff was well worth it, as the cast had to improvise their responses to the questions in the moment, which led to some hilarious parts of the show.

Each of the characters in the play are written as a bit one-dimensional, but this allowed for the actors to lean into the caricatures of each of them and exaggerate for humor. It was clear that Burns had worked with the actors to find the balance between the humor and ridiculousness of the play while still making it seem realistic, especially since the audience would be so familiar with Zoom at this present moment.
Replacing Linda was a delightful production that made great use of its virtual platform and featured excellent acting and directing. Everyone in the cast was clearly having a wonderful time during the performance, which made it even more enjoyable for the audience.

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