On the surface, “Curse of the Starving Class,” written by Pulitzer Prize winner Sam Shepard, is the story of an American family that slowly deteriorates thanks to a fraudulent land speculator who toys with their lives in the countryside. However, the play also addresses many deeper, modern issues, such as poverty, overbearing corporations and alcoholism.
The play is directed by Rush Rehm, who also serves as a professor of drama at Stanford. Consisting of only eight actors, the talented Stanford Summer Theater cast managed to pull off this play with only four weeks of rehearsal, although they were notified of their roles last year in the fall. The play is held at the small but cozy Pigott Theater; the set is quite impressive and not put to waste, as almost every inch is used during the play.
The main character, Wesley, played by Max Sosna-Spear ‘11 M.A. ‘12, is one of the most memorable roles in the entirety of the play. At first, Wesley is determined to succeed; he dresses well, speaks with conviction and is eager about the years to come. In the end, however, Wesley wears his father’s dirty old clothes, acts as if danger is constantly lurking around the corner and expects nothing more than a bleak future. It is easiest to spot Sosna-Spear’s excellent characterization in the last act. Only he and Wesley’s mother, Ella (Courtney Walsh), are left on the stage when they begin to fearfully recall a story about a raven that Wesley’s father, Weston (Marty Pistone), used to tell as a hopeful story about never giving up. However, in the scene, the story is twisted into a dark and sinister tale about the total and complete loss of hope.
In addition, Jessica Waldman ‘15 is wonderful as Wesley’s younger sister Emma, a sweet but spunky Southern girl who learns how cruel the real world is. The play presents the challenge of developing such a young character into a rebellious and hard-hearted criminal in a short time, but Waldman acts out the role beautifully and poetically.
Whether you’re searching for a dark-but-humorous play or a famous playwright’s work in these upcoming weeks, “Curse of the Starving Class” will satisfy your curiosity.
“Curse of the Starving Class” runs through Aug. 12 with showings at 8 p.m. Thursday – Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at Pigott Theater.