There I was, all by my lanky lonesome at 11PM Tuesday night in Zelnick, unprepared for the psychological experience about to commence.
I was there to preview YUM YUM: A 3D FUNHOUSE, written and directed by Russell Goldman ’17, whom you should know as an institution of this college because he also wrote and directed last Spring’s Auntie Stein’s Smiletime Pizzaburger Palace, a wondrous creation ripe with meat-people, Guy Fieri, and cutesy morbidity. Naturally, I was excited as fuck.
The show opened while I was sitting in Zelnick. Yvette (played by Cheyanne Williams ’17) and her parents (played by Jess Cummings’17 and Zacko Brint ’16) walked into the quiet glass building in somewhat of a tumult. Yvette is a young girl, bubbling with excitement over entering this 3D Funhouse which, at this point, I was ambivalent about entering. It was at this instance that Yvette spoke to Erebos, an quasi-omniscient, animatronic bird being that is still populating my dreams (nightmares?). We were all beckoned by Erebos to enter.
I was led through a flashing whirlwind maze of rooms in which the resident ghosts of the Funhouse greeted me with an unsettling enthusiasm. Eventually, I entered Erebos’s colorful domain. Cotton (played by Natalie May ’18), a rather delightful ghost, insisted that I take some of her cotton candy as Roulette (played by Alexa de la Cruz ’17) spun me around on a giant spinning wheel. Roulette and Cotton were joined by Pit (Anthony Dean ’17), Jack (Jordan Tragash ’18) and Strings (Johnny Lazebnik ’16). Together they formed a dynamic collection of ghosts, spreading Erebos’s will into the very air in the room.
This show, in a soul-twisting tornado of visuals, dialogue, and top-notch acting made me revisit my childhood in both endearing and alarming ways. Yvette goes through a journey with the ghosts and with the allure of Erebos’s utopian land of fun-and-games forever, trying to navigate the terror of growing up and wanting to remain a child forever.
When asked of his inspiration for creating Yum Yum, Russell stated:
Yum Yum catered to a wide and inexplicable range of inspirations. The Adolescence in a Funhouse genre I played with Uglydolls and Beanie Babies until I was maybe 11, all of whom I prioritized over humans. A few years ago I started writing a play about a girl in this same state of arrested development: she would run away to live with these ghosts who could always play with her and indulge her sense of overgrown youth. Then I visited this 3D mirror maze in Ontario (with an animatronic bird as its guide) and immediately saw it as the location for this story. It provided the grounds for something that could be surreal and human, totally batshit but ultimately still about figuring your shit out.
My work with Sofie Somoroff ’18 (Art Director) on this play, which began last spring, stemmed from creating a portal into a totally different place than you could imagine existing at Wesleyan or even in the ’92 Theater. The beauty of Yum Yum is that there’s nowhere on Earth like it. We needed to create a shift in this world where for half the play it could feel like a castle and for the other it could feel like a prison – that’s what Yvette feels, and that’s the split each of the ghosts are wrestling with. It wouldn’t work with anything less intimate or otherworldly. It needed to operate under its own set of rules.
In two paragraphs, and in a show under two hours, Russell managed to perfectly describe my college angst. Like lol I’m being this child at Camp Wesleyan, but also like wtf I can’t stay here forever yo. You need to see this show, but there is limited seating and they have sold out each of their first two shows. Not sure you’ll walk out the same, but it might be worth it.