Heartbreakingly beautiful Theatre UNI play



Theatre UNI premiered “The Aliens” on Thursday, Oct. 19 and finished running on Sunday, Oct. 29. The Strayer Wood Theatre performances featured the acting talents (pictured from left to right) of Jakob Reha, Sam Wiegens and Luke Van Cleve.

SHELBY WELSCH, Theater Critic

“The Aliens” is an off-Broadway play written by Annie Baker and is about two washed up dropouts who are trying to make sense of the world while under the constant influence of various drugs.

The play has made a strong impression since its premiere in 2010, which landed the play with a couple of different awards, including the Obie Award for Best New American Play.

Theatre UNI put on a lovely performance of “The Aliens,” and while there were only three characters in the play, each of the actors put on a really moving performance that left me with goosebumps and tears welling up in my eyes.

The play is known for having an almost uncomfortable amount of silence among the two main characters, Jasper and KJ. In fact, the first 10 minutes of the play were in almost complete silence, with the exception of a couple grunts and squawks from the two men as they sat across a beat-up patio set, enjoying the warm weather and thinking about life. While many might have found the silence to be a bit excessive, I thought it was genius and appreciated the ambiguity, since a lot of interpretation was left to the audience members to figure out.

Jasper, a highschool dropout and wannabe novelist was played by Jakob Reha, and his performance was amazingly authentic. He had this way of making each word count, and while there weren’t always words to be said, he made his presence known and got his point across through a beautiful use of body language. He crafted his character into somebody extremely likeable and made a lot of great choices that worked for me, which made it even more heart-wrenching to accept his death in the second act of the show.

KJ, a college dropout who sits around with Jasper all day pondering the meaning of life with a cup of magic mushroom tea always in hand, was played by Sam Wiegers. Wiegers also did a wonderful job at maintaining authenticity, and I especially loved the caring demeanor that he highlighted in his character. Jasper and KJ have a special friendship in the play, and the two did not neglect building their characters’ friendship into a beautiful blossoming flower, which, as I said before, really lifted their relationship up only to break all of the audience members’ hearts when Jasper dies of a drug overdose in his sleep.

Last, but certainly not least, Evan, a nervous highschooler who works at the coffee shop where KJ and Jasper loiter around, was played by Luke Van Cleve. Van Cleve really impressed me with his character development. He made Evan into an extremely round character, starting off as an awkward kid with horribly low self-esteem and then transforming him into a young man who stood up for not only himself, but also his new friends, KJ and Jasper.

All of the actors worked together in harmony, and I suspect that friendships were not only formed on stage, but also off stage based on the closeness they displayed through their interactions.

This was a beautifully heart-breaking play, and Theatre UNI should be proud of bringing such a complex, relevant play to life.