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UMass Theatre Dept. showcases its talent through “Scarcity.”

Maria Uminski/Collegian

Maria Uminski/Collegian

A compelling tale of a lower class family struggling to get their lives in order, “Scarcity” ropes the audience in from the moment it begins. The story revolves around the lives of the troubled Lawrence family.

Herb Lawrence, played by Wilson Zinnurov, fuels his day through vigorous consumption of alcohol. Throughout the entire play, Herb can be seen with a drink in his hand. Zinnurov hits the nail on the head with this role, making you appreciate his character from the moment he steps on the set. Despite his lack of motivation and seemingly deadbeat personality, you can tell he loves his family and works towards making them happy. His relationship with his wife, Martha, is rocky at first glance, but there is actually a deep love between them.

Erin Wholley brings a dazzling performance to the table with her role as Martha, a strong mother struggling to make ends meet for her family. Her dead-end, low-paying job is the family’s primary source of income, putting immense pressure on her to constantly toil through stressful days of work in order to provide for her children. She works hard to keep both her children on the right track and out of trouble.

Rachel and Billy Lawrence are teenagers who have to deal with the burdens and abuse that ensues from growing up in the lower class. Rachel is an innocent 11-year-old girl who looks up to her 16-year-old brother, and wants to follow in his footsteps. She is constantly pestering her brother to introduce her to his teacher so she too can fulfill her potential. Actress Kate Henoch turns Rachel into a loveable character that puts a smile on your face simply through her presence.

Billy, played by Zachary Smith, is struggling to find a way out his current situation. He is a smart, ‘straight A’ student who has been dealt an unfortunate hand in life. Smith draws the audience to feel connected to his character to the point where you are itching to see him maximize his potential and succeed in life. While his mother points him in the right direction, he is lacking in support from his father, which hinders his success.

The troubled teen, in his frantic search for a way out, is taken under the wing of one of his teachers, brilliantly played by Robin McNamara. Ms. Ellen Roberts takes a particular liking to Billy, and seeing the potential his young mind holds, she decides to help him succeed. Her intentions are more than professional, as it is revealed she fancies Billy as more than just a student. Her interest in him increasingly becomes obvious, and Billy eventually succumbs in order to get the help he needs.

In another dark twist, Martha’s cousin Louie is constantly hounding her in an attempt to win her affection. Andrew DiBartolomeo does an exceptional job at portraying his passionately persistent – yet hopelessly misdirected – character. His intentions are clear, as he blatantly neglects his wife Gloria, played by Kim Feener, in an attempt to sway Martha into his arms. Martha, being a respectable and loyal mother, is constantly fighting off the affection being thrown at her by her desperate cousin.

What makes this play so enjoyable is the way playwright Lucy Thurber sprinkled a touch of dark humor in every crevice of the show. It almost feels unnatural laughing at such a hapless situation, but just when you think the Lawrence family is going down in flames, the audience is shown the light at the end of the tunnel. Billy gets accepted into a prestigious private high school, Herb gets work and can finally provide for his family and Gloria finds the support and comfort her life has been lacking in the form of family. The combination of a talented cast and an uplifting, jocular story gave “Scarcity” an abundance of entertaining and uplifting moments.

Josh Steinberg can be reached at jssteinb@student.umass.edu.

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