It’s another frigid December day in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Snow falls on homeless junkies, drag queens, and grunge punksters as policemen, batons in hand, keenly monitor the streets. Inside, two artists huddle in their loft, debating how to make ends meet.
Their rent is due.
Mark Cohen finally shrugs to his roommate, Roger, and says, “There are times when we’re dirt broke, hungry and freezing, and I ask myself, why the hell am I still living here?”
To tell us his story, that’s why.
This is the backdrop for “Rent,” a Pulitzer-prize winning musical about an eclectic group of artists who live on the bohemian streets of Alphabet City, part of New York’s artsy and avant-garde Lower East Side.
Written by Jonathan Larson, the play was inspired by the Italian composer Giacomo Puccini, whose opera “La Boheme” spins a tale about a troupe of Parisian artists plagued by tuberculosis. Larson trades the brick Parisian streets for the cobblestone of New York’s East Village, a dicey part of town known for its anarchists, bowery bums and beatniks.
Some gay, some straight, and some transgender, all of “Rent’s” characters live under the crippling shadow of HIV/AIDS. With their time together running out, they contemplate life, love and friendship—things the disease will eventually take away.
Worked into this yarn is a serious social commentary. “Rent” addresses issues like homophobia, sexual liberty, and addiction. It humanizes people that society usually labels and denigrates—the poor, the addicted, the rebellious, the diseased. “Rent” shows us things from their perspective, a perspective not much different from our own.
Mary Jo Lodge, director of Lafayette College’s current production of “Rent,” says the show, “Offers a poignant, timeless message about the power of friendship and love in the face of poverty and serious illness” and will provide a forum on subjects like the bullying and inclusivity of LGBQ youth.
Twenty-five Lafayette students are featured in Lafayette’s production of “Rent,” held down by a cast of vocal heavyweights that includes Eric Mortensen (as Roger), Brett Billings (as Mark), Patrick Grundy (as Collins), Rich Albertini (as Benjamin), Nathaniel Kelley (as Angel), Juliet Lodi (as Joanne), Amanda Scherb (as Mimi), and Dana Pardini (as Maureen). The music ranges from rock to tango to reggae.
If you’re heading to the Williams Center for the show, don’t expect anything like the movie or Broadway production.
“Rather than attempting to replicate that beloved original, we have instead made a concerted effort to put our own spin on Rent,” says Lodge.
And if don’t have a ticket yet, don’t jump for the phone hoping to grab one. College Theatre has proven that it has its own group of “RENTheads”—the last three productions are sold out. You may still have a chance to grab a seat. Visit the Williams Center for the Arts Box Office at 7 p.m. before the show to purchase a stand-by ticket.
As for you with a ticket already in hand, enjoy yourself! And remember, there’s “no day, but today.”
~Rent will be showing at 8 p.m. from Wednesday to Saturday November 2-5. Stand-by tickets are $6.00 for the public, $2.00 for Lafayette students, and $3.00 for Lafayette staff.