‘The Coming World’ spotlights hardships surrounding mental health

Ramapo’s theater program is known for its thought-provoking and unconventional productions, and the student-run “The Coming World” is no different. Advertised as “a directing course presentation,” junior theater major Reese Pasquarello makes his directorial debut with this production.

“When it was announced that this semester we would only be doing one mainstage production, I acknowledged that this would be the perfect opportunity for me to do my own student run production,” Pasquarello said in an email.

Sponsored by both the theater program and the Center for Health and Counseling Services, “The Coming World” by Christopher Shinn discusses heavy topics surrounding mental health, drug addiction and loss. 

“Early in 2023, I stumbled upon the play… and I immediately became attached to it and knew I had to do something with it,” Pasquarello said. “Especially at this point in time when I found the play, I was going through some hard times and I felt like now would be the perfect time to give this play a life.”

Sophomore Elizabeth LeBoeuf, who plays the character Dora in the show, commended Pasquarello for his directing skills and professionalism with the heavy subject matter. “I saw first-hand the skills Reese had learned in his directing course at Ramapo. He was professional, encouraging, let us ask questions, created clear boundaries, and made the experience enjoyable for everyone involved,” she said in an email.

The show was put together by a small four-person production team and includes an even smaller two-person cast. Performed in the Adler Theater, the limited production design makes the small space feel expansive while still accentuating the intimacy between the characters. The lack of a set — besides stairs that were built between the audience — and the sparse use of props place the spotlight on the characters’ conversations with one another, which is the point. What matters most is what they say and how it affects each person.

While a show with such a small cast may sound like it runs the risk of becoming boring, LeBoeuf and her costar, senior Andrew Hobbie, were easily able to keep the audience enraptured for the show’s hour-long runtime.

“The Coming World” features only three characters. Dora is a young woman working at a Blockbuster who struggles to handle the erratic behavior of her boyfriend, Ed. She eventually breaks up with him and later learns of his suicide. Hobbie portrays both of the other characters: Ed, a frantic and struggling young man strapped for cash, addicted to drugs, and eventually dies by suicide, and Ty, Ed’s more put-together twin brother whom Dora later bonds with.

“My favorite part about the show would have to be working on transitioning between the two characters I portray,” Hobbie said in an email. “The change is so quick, but the characters are so wildly different.”

What stands out most about the show, though, is the lighting. Done by costume and lighting designer Ashlyn Smith, the lighting design does much of the heavy lifting to indicate the setting and tone throughout the show, especially with such minimal design elsewhere. 

Beyond playing with the white lighting typical of theater productions, Smith incorporated shades of purple and blue. The moment it became most noticeable was the blue lighting used when Dora and Ty swim in the ocean — represented by the aforementioned stairs. The atmosphere would not have felt complete without the blue hues.

The show comes full circle by the end with Dora addicted to painkillers and involved with the same people that Ed was. “The Coming World” has no preachings or morals to bestow upon the audience, except maybe the message that hard times can fall on anyone. 

“It shows how easy it is for someone, who you trust and love, to fall down into a hole that is incredibly difficult to get out of,” Hobbie said. “I think it also shows that sometimes all you can do is be there for someone and pray that’s enough.”



Featured photo courtesy of Lauren Cesta