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‘Gaieties: Chem 31 XXX’ is the best class all quarter

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It’s time for “Gaieties 2015,” a rollicking ride in Memorial Auditorium that has been a unique Stanford Big Game week tradition since 1911.  Time-honored and venerated, “Gaieties” never disappoints, and this year was no exception. The show, titled “Gaieties 2015: Chem 31XXX,” was pure and creative from start to finish.

The show, set against a nice backdrop reminiscent of the Main Quad, begins with a group of sassy metallic-toga-clad “Rodin sculptures” that speak with French accents and serve as a sort of Greek chorus throughout the production.  The audience is quickly introduced to the requisite Cal enemies — a mad scientist (Kyle Robinson ‘18) who Stanford expelled back in the day and her sidekick, a delightfully diabolical, goonish Grubbers (Peter Oathout ‘18).  They are painfully jealous that “Stanford students actually live in a constant state of nirvana.” Their plan? Infect Stanford’s population with a love virus so that no one can focus on their work. This serves as clever commentary on the state of love life at Stanford — the protagonists are distressed because Stanford cannot possibly go on if people actually date each other!

Before Full Moon on the Quad (FMOTQ), the Cal scientist infects the Stanford Tree (Malaika Murphy-Sierra ‘17) with the virus so that when everyone kisses her they will be entranced.  The anticipation builds as the rally-clad ensemble sings “We’re gonna make out!”

The group scenes lack the energy that they could have, but individual stars shine, like the dynamic duo freshmen Seth Luddité (Isaac Goldstein ‘19) and Dani Squash (Charlie Dubach-Reinhold ‘19), the energetic Dollie Maria Knight (Grace O’Brien ‘19), and the 12-year-old chemistry supergenius Benjy Goldfarb-Wasserman (Abby Brooke ‘17), who all team up to save Stanford from the epidemic. Witty lines that reflect life at Stanford are also of note — one love-struck girl tells the guy she is making out with at FMOTQ “I don’t care about CS anymore — I’m majoring in you!”

Another great scene comes when the Stanford-saving team goes to “the most mystical place on campus, the Enchanted Broccoli Forest,” in which a spirited oracle (Megan Calfas ‘18) advises them in their quest and a troupe of people clad in green suits and wigs surrounds them singing and chanting “Eat the broccoli!”

Gaieties is meant to be a spectacle.  Visually appealing dance interludes with lights and silhouetted figures bring up the energy that is lacking in some of the larger numbers, which often seem too focused on mechanics and quite simply getting everyone in the right place.  The set fills up the stage space, still giving the actors plenty of room to run and dance around, even though the cast doesn’t always utilize it as they might. 

Yet, “Chem 31XXX” stays true to the spirit of Gaieties: Only those who go to Stanford can understand it.  With dozens of clever jokes and references and a stellar cast that is genuinely having fun on stage, this year’s production continuously mines the depths of Stanford culture. No part of campus life is safe from wisecracks: Athletes are STS majors with the red backpacks and one ensemble member urges, “Grad students, don’t drink the water!” Gaieties even pokes fun at itself as a tradition — Dani comments that Stanford students “write a play with the same plot every year.”

At the end of the show, the lyrics “We’re gonna make out!” change to “We’re gonna beat Cal!” Yes, “Gaieties” may not be perfect, but its heart is, most definitely, in the right place.

“Gaieties”  is performing Nov. 18-20 at 8 p.m. in Memorial Auditorium. To purchase tickets, go to gaieties.stanford.edu.

Contact Madeline Macleod at mmacleod ‘at’ stanford.edu.

 

This article has been updated to reflect students’ current identities.

Madeline MacLeod is a Staff Writer for the Theater beat at the Stanford Daily. She is a freshman from Roseville, California who loves English, French, psychology, and of course, theater! In her spare time, Madeline enjoys reading, hiking, and running. To contact Madeline, please email mmacleod 'at' stanford.edu.