“S.E.R.I.A.L.” Haunts the Old Mailroom

Promotion poster for Syd Freiberger's S.E.R.I.A.L.

by Danielle Sarubbi

The creepy and abandoned asbestos-filled room that is the old mailroom on the Purchase College campus posed as an appropriate theater for an equally creepy play Friday and Saturday. Written by junior Theatre and Performance major Derek Sherry, sophomore Theatre and Performance major Cayleigh Hearth and senior Theatre and Performance and History double major, Syd Freiberger, the play also features Freiberger doubling as director while Sherry and Hearth play Harvey James McIntosh and Beth Kelman, respectively.

The small audience shuffled in alongside the long, gray wall of the eerie space fit only fit standing room. 70s-era music swelled from a Bluetooth speaker hooked up to a MacBook as Harvey McIntosh and Penelope De’Fleur (Christina Quoka) slow dance. Across the room is Lucy Hatcher (Rosie Alston-Follansbee), whose wrists and ankles are zip-tied to a metal chair, wearing what looks like a white nightgown.

Beth Kelman walks up and down the spectator-lined wall with red scissors in her back pocket, engaging with audience members and adding an over-all uncomfortable vibe.

The audience literally follows McIntosh to a separate room, coming along for the ride as he drives to the hardware store to get some fertilizer. He needs to bury his most recent victim he’s strangled.

Following close behind is Kelman, one of the only two morticians in town who is strangely obsessed with McIntosh and his career path.

Kelman and McIntosh quickly form a close bond that leads to death, a theme in which this entire play drives upon.

Hearth played an over enthusiastic fan of McIntosh in her rendition of Kelman, with just the right level of creepiness to make your skin crawl. Her voice would reach a high volume, sometimes distorting her words whenever her character was excited, adding a lot to the performance. Hearth was engaging as she took big steps in her black boots across the old mailroom floor.

Conversely, Sherry played a more reserved and secret-filled McIntosh. Playing to an audience of friends, he would quickly break character at points during the play’s chase scene. Otherwise, Sherry was very articulate, almost making the audience feel sympathy for his deranged serial killer during a monologue where McIntosh went into detail about why he kills.

Big props are owed to fight director Brian Bowyer. The fight scenes between McIntosh, Kelman and Officer Everett Tracey (Soren Correia) were extremely realistic, causing the audience to gasp with every punch.

Lighting designer William Spitzer used the lighting already provided from the fluorescent light bulbs in the room, adding beams of white light that shone sideways onto the actors.

Sound designer Francis Pace-Nuñez added a time-travelling element to the play with the music from the 70s that centered the play in a specific time and place.

Alston-Follansbee doubled as the costume designer, using outfits that looked like they were probably straight out of each actor’s closet. Quoka also did double duty as the makeup designer, and helped to develop each character, with McIntosh sporting a black eye and Kelman wearing minimal makeup.

Freiberger faced an obstacle with the car chase scene. With the play’s less-than-conventional location, Freiberger had to think of a way to bring vehicles to the stage. The hood of cars, fashioned with big pieces of cardboard and hung around the actors’ necks with string was her solution, and it worked. Another prop-filled scene was a garden scene. How to turn a blank, concrete floor into a garden? Glue the tops of flowers onto cardboard boxes and place them in a semi-circle on the floor— at least that’s what Freiberger did. It didn’t make sense until the actors established that they were in a garden. A highlight: sparkling confetti in place of blood, shooting out of Officer Tracey, was an ingenious way to portray his death.

The audience remained quite attentive through the roughly 30-minute-long play. The last scene, however, was the longest, and took place in one space, causing people to kneel or sit alongside the wall in exhaustion. Otherwise, the audience congratulated the cast with a big cheer, congratulating their friends on a job well done.