Bellevue College’s theatre arts department has done it again. The Water Engine, directed by Tammi Doyle, was undoubtedly a successful show to kick off the year. Written by esteemed playwright David Mamet, the script is fast-paced and witty, with action progressing so fast that you could miss it if you blink. The cast certainly honored this, offering fantastic performances in every scene. Set in Great Depression-era Chicago, the Water Engine tells the story of Charles Lang, an ambitious inventor who recently created a revolutionary engine that can create electricity out of distilled water. While attempting to obtain a patent for his invention, a pair of legal professionals who see profit potential violently suppress him, threatening him and his family. The show’s ending is rather open-ended, leaving the audience hungry for more. The intensity of the plot enabled many of the actors to showcase their best dramatic performances, which was certainly a treat to witness. In the scenes where the violence against Lang and his family members escalated, I found myself on the edge of my seat, enthralled by the conviction the cast injected into their characters. There is no denying that we have a supremely talented band of thespians at Bellevue College.
The show was also aided by engaging props and lighting configuration. While the show is set in a black box theater, the cast and crew utilize the space to the maximum. A prop table on the side of the stage equipped with a microphone provided sound effects during the show, which I perceived as a nod to the theatrical practices of early 20th-century radio stations, as portrayed in films like Annie. Admittedly, these sounds could be a bit distracting at times, but it was nevertheless an interesting addition to the show. The cast’s and crew’s truly detailed work was displayed during the more complex scenes, where many people were on stage at once and where props were being continually shifted. The show was seamless, and even though I saw it on opening night, it was clear that a lot of practice had gone into making the show astounding. As a theater kid myself, I was highly impressed and honored to watch this show. It was exceedingly clear that every single person who contributed to the making of it was very passionate. The Water Engine is a shining example of a show that knows what it’s doing from the inside out, and I believe this serves as a major harbinger for future successes in the Bellevue College theatre arts department.