Goodman ’10’s Play Brings Loves, Laughs, and Swordfish

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

A dress rehearsal on Tuesday. Photo by Jiuxing June Xie '11.
Photo by Se Eun Gong '13.
Photo by Se Eun Gong.
Photo by Jiuxing June Xie.
Photo by Se Eun Gong.
Photo by Jiuxing June Xie.

Photo by Se Eun Gong.

Eats Shoots and Ladders, by Sam Goodman ‘10, has many puns, starting with the title. It will be presented this Friday and Saturday, January 29-30, 2010 at 8 pm in the Frear Ensemble Theatre. The Department of Theater performs this staged reading directed by Rebecca Wright, an artist visiting from Philadelphia; it is the final realization of Goodman’s Honors Playwriting Thesis.

The play chronicles the romantic misadventures of Spuds and Valkyrie. The pair drifts apart and connects in a universe similar to our own but interspersed with surrealist elements.

“The play is more of an experiment with style than plot,” said Wright. “It shows us a ‘on’ and ‘off’ relationship through a prism. It is set in an imaginative reality that I try to explore with extreme playfulness. We make use of lots of different styles like film noir, surrealism, expressionism, spy thriller, romantic comedy, and Western, to name a few.”

Goodman said, “It’s about competing imaginations. I wanted to exaggerate relatable life experiences. [But] laughter was also a goal!”

The product of nine months of writing by Goodman, this four-actor play was cast shortly before winter break; it has been in rehearsals for three weeks. Glenn Stott ’12 and Sirkka Natti ’11 play the star-crossed lovers, while Nell Bang-Jensen ’11 and Nick Allred ’13 play various other characters, including a duster-wielding homemaker assassin and a fussy house detective. Stott commented on his part, “It’s a really fun play to act in. I’m the same character, but I have lots of roles and wear different masks.”

Eats Shoots and Ladders has been through many revisions since its conception, but Goodman said his focus has always been the poetry of the piece. Allred felt that this goal has been met: “I love Sam’s writing. It’s erudite but accessible, funny and madcap but emotionally grounded.”

In contrast to the complexity of the poetry, the aesthetic of the production is bare-bone. Sound design is done by Daniel Perelstein ’09, but there is no lighting. Produced in a black box theater, the blank stage is broken up by a small easel set in the center. The actors place different canvases for each scene on the easel. Backdrops include, but are not limited to, train tracks on which lie a dead shark, a moon-scape with vegetation, and the doorway to a townhouse. “This [production] is more to help Sam develop his play,” said Wright; “we are not focusing on the set.”

Wright and Goodman concur that the housewife scene, which can be recognized by the presence of a swordfish, is the moment to anticipate. Wright adds, “Or any time anyone gets punched. Those are the highlights!”

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