Oswego professor's new play explores web of deceit, choices

Take the wrong coat. Reach into the pocket. Pull out an enigmatic note. Plunge into a Hitchcockian web of deceit. Mix gently with suspense, desperation and song, and the ingredients for SUNY Oswego theatre professor Mark Cole’s new play emerge as “The Mandorla, or Lying to Tell the Truth.”

The premiere of what Cole calls a “musical narrative” will take place Thursday through Sunday, June 27 to 30, at Jazz Central in Syracuse. Directed by Gerard Moses, with music by Frederick Willard, the play’s three-member cast will perform at 8 p.m. the first three days and at 4 p.m. for the Sunday finale.

The Mandorla rehearsal imageTwo recent SUNY Oswego alumni—Sara Weiler, a 2012 Syracuse Live Theatre Award winner, and Dan Williams, a music director and performer at the Redhouse and CNY Arts Center—will star with Cole in a play that revolves around the mandorla, an ancient symbol whose central feature is two circles representing heaven and earth that overlap to form an almond shape, signifying the union of opposites.

“The play’s inspiration came from a story I’d heard years ago, sitting around a table with a group of the Oswego Players,” Cole said. “Someone told about taking the wrong coat by accident. Someone else said, what if you reached into the pocket and found out a note or something that leads you in a surprising direction?”

Weiler as Gloria is a student trying to finish her master’s thesis when she makes such a find. As she tries to track down the coat’s owner, she’s drawn into a maelstrom of paranoia, mystery, deceit and desperation. Her thesis adviser is found injured in her home. Investigators Mark and Dan (Cole and Williams) interrogate her. Ultimately, Gloria has to make a life-changing choice when she learns that nothing is as it seems.

‘Gifted’ contributors

Cole said that with his teaching, directing and acting schedule, it has taken two years to write and stage “The Mandorla,” a CNY Jazz Arts Foundation production with partial funding from a SUNY Oswego Scholarly and Creative Activities Committee grant.

Author of such earlier works for the stage as “An Evening with Alan and Lawrence,” “The Glass Coffin: A Ghost Story” and “On the Terrace of the Pontiac Hotel,” Cole has taught and directed student theatre productions at SUNY Oswego since 1979. Other directing credits include productions for Contemporary Theatre of Syracuse, Sterling Renaissance Festival, Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire and Cayuga Community College.

In “Mandorla,” Gloria, whose thesis deals with life as musical narrative, shares her life’s music with the investigators, creating a musical play within a play.

Cole and Willard wrote the lyrics to Willard’s score.

Willard “is really a gifted composer and music director,” Cole said. “He has come up with some very stylistic and melodic pieces.”

Willard’s recent credits as musical director include “Pump Boys and Dinettes” at Chenango River Theatre, “Titanic” and “Miss Saigon” for Virginia Musical Theatre and “The Full Monty,” “A Chorus Line” and “White Christmas” at Arts Center of Coastal Carolina. The lighting director is Karel Blakeley, chair of Le Moyne’s theatre department.

Moses, an actor, director and professor of drama emeritus at Syracuse University, trained at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. Recent directing credits include “Eleanor” for the Society of New Music in Syracuse, “Amahl and the Night Visitors” at the Russell Opera House and the Gulick Theatre at St. Lawrence University and “Frozen” at the Redhouse in Syracuse.

Tickets for the production at Jazz Central, a 63-seat venue at 441 E. Washington St. in Syracuse, are priced at $20 ($15 for students and seniors), and are available by calling 315-289-6613 for reservations. Tickets also will be available at the door.

PHOTO CAPTION: ‘Musical narrative’ —SUNY Oswego theatre professor Mark Cole (left), author of “The Mandorla, or Lying to Tell the Truth,” plays an investigator as he grills Gloria (Sara Weiler, right) and his fellow investigator (Dan Williams) tries to get a word in edgewise in the new play to premiere June 27 to 30 at Jazz Central, 441 E. Washington St. in Syracuse. Gloria, a suspect in her thesis adviser’s presumed assault, shares her life in song.

(Posted: May 29, 2013)

Tags: theatre, theater, mark cole