Some of my favorite productions have been done on the D-Lab stage at Wright State University. These student produced, directed, and performed works are borderline masterpieces. This adaption of “Good Will Hunting” on the stage is no exception.
You probably know the story, but in a nutshell a hard, angry young janitor named Will who works at MIT and proves his genius by solving a math problem after hours on the chalkboard. He is spotted by a professor who then makes it his mission to harness this guy’s potential. Due to some unfortunate legal trouble, the young man is forced into therapy and the professor matches him with his college roommate. Sean, the therapist, is from the same Boston neighborhood as Will, and they have a connection. Sean is not intimidated by Will’s attitude or his genius and together they work through Will (and some of Sean’s) issues in a delightfully powerful way.
Zack Steele, who adapted the script and directed the show, also starred as Will. His accent was good, his attitude was good, and he demonstrated a subtle understanding of Will’s underlying neurosis. The professor was played by Sean Jones, an underrated performer who played the character as the restrained mathematician he is.
But the highlight for me – and I knew it would be – was Andrew Quiett as Sean. Quiett is probably the most talented actor at Wright State and he proves it again here as this very complicated man, who lost his wife to cancer and never has fully dealt with it. His temper was honest, his passion authentic, and I am absolutely counting down the days until I can see him play Jud in “Oklahoma”.
There are two pivotal scenes in the relationship of Sean and Will and I cried through both. Will insults Sean’s wife in their very first meeting; Sean pins him against a wall and lets him know in no uncertain terms that his wife is off limits. Will respects this and Sean made an impact as someone who would not be playing Will’s usual games. And then, of course, there’s the breakthrough scene where Sean repeatedly tells Will that it wasn’t his fault that people had abused and abandoned him as a child. I was sobbing so hard I was glad the theater was so dark.
These two scenes are written powerfully. But if it were not for the amazing work of Steele and Quiett, they would not have touched me the way they did.
Of course, the supporting cast was great. Ellie Margolis had the task of playing the love interest, who is in love with a man with attachment issues. She loves him so deeply but he cannot fathom it and pushes her away. The chemistry here between the two actors as palpable. Blaine Stamper led the charge as Will’s best friend and leader of their posse, and provided some much needed comic moments to the show. My only complaint was that Stamper spoke a little too quietly sometimes making it hard to hear him.
This is a great movie turned into an even better stage play because the story was stripped down just enough that the themes were clearly presented and the emotion raw and upfront. If these students are already this good, I cannot imagine what their futures hold.
Check out MisKast this Friday night in the D-Lab at 11 PM. I’m sure it will be hilarious!