By Caroline Ahearn, Copy Editor
“Cavendish, Cavendish! I’ve had the royal family Caven-dished up to me for 12 years! God, but I’m sick of them!” exclaims the character of Kitty Dean shortly after she enters stage left in the first act of “The Royal Family.” But audiences in Fenwick Theatre have certainly not been getting sick of the Cavendishes, the subjects of the latest play to be presented by the College of the Holy Cross theatre department, written by George S. Kaufman and Edna Ferber and directed by Steve Vineberg, Distinguished Professor of Arts and Humanities.
“The Royal Family” is an American comedy classic about three generations of a famous theatrical family, fascinating narcissists whose off-stage lives teem with melodrama. The matriarch Fanny is preparing to come out of retirement while her celebrated daughter Julie and her granddaughter Gwen, a rising star, struggle with their shared desire to give up the stage for a normal domestic life. Then there’s Julie’s brother Tony, a whirling dervish who whips in and out of their lives whenever he’s in retreat from his latest scandal.
Rehearsals for “The Royal Family” began in January, and the production’s main cast includes Jacob Applegate ’20, Emily Arancio ’20, MJ Diao ’19, Gianna DiMaiolo ’19, Andrew Farina ’18, Nora Grimes ’19, Hannah Gabriel ’17, Derek Kunz ‘17, Chris Little ’17, Noah Mailloux ’20, Emma O’Leary ’18, Liam Prendergast ’19, Megan Siebecker ’20, Dan Taylor ’19, Frank Thompson ’20, and Rose Weiss ’18.
“The casting process was easy in one sense because so many talented actors auditioned,” said Vineberg. “But hard in another sense for the same reason! We’re very lucky—we have an unusually strong crew of actors at the moment, including a lot of gifted first-year students. The rehearsal process has been thoroughly delightful. My cast is not only talented and committed, but as nice a group of people as I’ve ever had the fortune to work with.”
Vineberg chose Kaufman and Ferber’s play for it’s high comedy, saying that it is “an example of a genre that playwrights seldom visit these days, and it requires a style that our student actors don’t usually encounter, so they’ve had to learn it. They’ve done a lot of research to capture that style, and since it’s an old-fashioned play, the actors get to time-travel to a rich and extravagant era in the history of American theatre.”
According to Noah Mailloux, who plays Gilbert Marshall, Vineberg assigned each cast member specific films to watch based on their characters in order to properly capture the style of the time period. Mailloux was told to watch “Roman Holiday” and “Howards End,” and Rose Weiss, who plays his love interest, Julie Cavendish, was assigned “All About Eve” and “Next Time We Love.”
Although the play was written and set in 1927, its comedy and focus on a multi-generational famous family rings true today, 90 years later. From the Wahlbergs to the Kardashians, audiences know how to recognize a famous dynasty from its basic traits: melodrama and an emphasis on duty to the family. The cast and crew of “The Royal Family” worked incredibly hard to create a balance between staying true to original script and making it relatable for today’s viewer. If E! Network had existed at the time of the play, we would have been “Keeping Up With the Cavendishes.” No matter how far in the past “The Royal Family” is set, its message will still be relevant so long as our society is fascinated by fame, fortune, and family.
‘The Royal Family” runs for one more weekend of performances, April 6-8, at 8 p.m. Tickets are $7 for members of the Holy Cross community and $10 for the general public and can be reserved by calling the box office at 508-793-2496.