A View from the Cliff: “DNA” at Brooklyn College

The mob mentality metaphor takes a terrifying turn in the Brooklyn College Theater Department’s version of “DNA,” which is part thriller, part allegory, as the cast vividly explores the disastrous effects of extreme peer pressure within a group of young adults.

Director Rose Burnett Bonczek introduces us to almost a dozen characters. We witness their interactions on individual and collective levels. Ultimately, their undoing is triggered by a basic fact of civilization inherent in our DNA. Ironically, a plot using an innocent third party’s DNA is equally responsible for their downfall.

The one-act performance involves scapegoating a weaker member of the group. In the end, the need to obey the group’s collective will replaces common sense. Insanity replaces logic. Leaders and followers come and go. Comedy and drama are deliberately intertwined, as evidenced by the audience’s laughter at very serious moments.

Phil (JoMack Miranda) is one of the early leaders. Often cold and callous, his girlfriend Leah (Annabelle Rose Mayock) admires and eagerly follows him. But she never gains his true affection. Danny the dental student (Henry Nwaru) whines over his lost scholarships, too weak-willed to stop the events that are spinning out of control.

Clearly, control in every sense of the word rules the evening’s performance at the Roosevelt Extension Theater. Brianna (Stefanie Gil), selected by Phil, completely loses her sanity after falsely testifying. Other characters with various controls over their internal consciences flee reality in one way or the other.

Praise, then, to Daniela Gonzalez y Perez, Rhiannon Guilfoyle, Francisco Carrillo, Artur Brodskiy, Andrew Galteland, Ally Callaghan and Patrick Delaney. Their characters succumb to the false protection of the “whole” while sacrificing the strength of the “one.”

Have we learned from the horrors of history including countless totalitarian regimes? Do we understand the message in cautionary tales such as Lord of the Flies or 1984? That is the immeasurable value of onstage productions such “DNA.” Clearly, if we don’t learn from history, we are, as they say, “Doomed to repeat it!”

Kudos as well to behind-the-scenes support from Shannon Kavanagh, Justine Del Grosso, Sophie Talmadge Silleck, Rebecca Shumel, Cody Hom and Eugene Solfanelli. For information, click on http://depthome.brooklyn.cuny.edu/theater/ or call the box office at 718-951-4500. As always, save me a seat on the aisle.

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