With a woman cast as God, a female prophetess, and a budding multicultural relationship between two girls, NOMADS’ semesterly festival “Wordplay” did not disappoint.
The exhibition, which was performed on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1, presented student-written and student-performed plays in Barnard’s Held Lecture Hall. The plays were presented by NOMADS, a student-run theater group devoted to showcasing the work of Columbia students.
The plays captured weighty subject matter, including Jewish biblical history, relationships between women, and the death of a loved one.
The first play of the night, “Prophetess” by Rachel Winton, BC ’19, tells the story of the prophet Deborah, the fourth judge of Israel. The story seamlessly transitioned from the initial emergence of Deborah as a prophet to when she led a rebellion against the leaders of Israel. Winton’s feminist spin on the biblical story was pertinent and comedic; lines like “I’m going to help the only way I know how—by manipulating men” were met with a roar of laughter from the audience. Anna Moskowitz, BC ’19, gave a memorable performance as the protagonist, capturing the gravity of leading Jews to freedom while maintaining a playful resilience against her husband and adversaries.
“Prophetess” was followed by “untitled,” a play written by Andy Jo, BC ’18, that was by far the star of the show. Hilarious and gripping, the play follows two women, Carina and Soo, and how they navigate their romantic, platonic, and familial relationships. The cast members played word games on stage, bouncing off of each other and gossiping about Carina’s new relationship. Carina Goebelbecker’s, BC ’18, portrayal of Carina and her affection for Soo, which was undercut by her own insecurities, was particularly authentic and compelling. Jo’s writing should also be heralded—the work was simple but well-crafted, allowing each actress to shine in her own right.
Last in the festival was the musical “What a Year” by Sal Volpe, CC ’19, which followed the relationship between characters Lily and James as the couple helped Lily’s sick father. While the musical’s score had potential—“Lily, Chin Up” in particular was a memorable and sweet expression of paternal affection—the production itself was under-rehearsed. The chorus members often stumbled over one another, which could be due to the fact that they were narrating and singing simultaneously. The transitions between arguments between Lily and James and songs were also awkward and misplaced. The play was somewhat saved by its tactile depiction of memory and loss, focusing on the passing of time and Lily and James’ anniversary.
Time passed fairly quickly throughout the festival and the trio of plays were memorable; remarks such as, “I had no idea God was so sarcastic,” from the heroine of “Prophetess,” kept the audience engaged through comedy, while the more serious, feminist undertones of the festival continued to hint at a deeper meaning. From start to finish, “Wordplay” addressed the experiences of women—sometimes funny, sometimes serious, and always authentic.