‘Slime’ glistens and glows in U.S. premiere at UMBC

In this emotionally powerful play performed by students and puppets are profound nature metaphors and ecology commentary.

It shimmers in the moonlight, but the “Slime” in the title of this U.S. premiere at the UMBC Department of Theatre is not the pretty, glittery putty that’s recently taken the world by storm. It’s a malignant entity, here to bring a storm to the world. At least, that’s what the grad-student delegates at the Third Annual Slime Crisis Conference are told. There to help solve the problem of a strange Slime spreading across the Earth’s oceans, the group is new to the conference and each other, but they’ve been convinced they’re the “smart ones” who can make a difference. However, as the conference proceeds and the facts unfold, the delegates begin to question the achievability of this goal.

Arriving at the conference, the audience is met by a rather sad beach landscape that’s also a gorgeous gallery of upcycled art, with a gappy dock anchoring the scene as it extends back and up into the sky. The back curtain of clouds, an expanse of varying textures, is a patchwork of intricately bunched, distressed, and threaded-together white textiles. Spilling over the front and sides of the stage is a gleaming, plastic-studded trash patch. Meanwhile, the Slime threatens, just outside swimming distance.

Lucas Sanchez, Wesley Mauder, Misaki Weddington, Christian Price-Burnett, and AnnaSophia Gutierrez in ‘Slime.’ Photo by Kiirstn Pagan.

If you’re somehow sitting in the audience without a speck of ongoing guilt about the state of our environment, you’re probably a cardboard seat-filler. But if not, you’ll certainly be affected by the profound nature metaphors and the flow of ecology commentary in this piece. Thanks to the laid-back script by U.K. Playwright Bryony Lavery and the skilled touch of Director Nigel Semaj, the message is not an overwhelming one. The young performers and the audience both seem to take relief in the fluffier moments that add an air of lightness to the thick undercurrent of Slime.

Most of the lighter points are built-in due to the quirks of the characters, revealed while they’re dining, drinking, hanging out, hooking up, and taking smoke breaks — anything other than working on the problem they’re supposed to be solving. There are some hard truths to be told about human nature here, and the characters take turns illustrating them in these interpersonal scenes — but it’s all in good humor. The scenes that drive this play are the emotionally powerful vignettes with stunningly realistic puppets that represent the coastal animals they encounter.

Yes, each of the characters can talk to animals, and I’m sure the cast members had a wonderful time developing those chirping, whistling, and gurgling abilities during the rehearsal process. The performers seem to be having a great show in general, bouncing all over the set, in the pit, and down the aisles. Each actor has a unique take on cross-species communication, and they do a fantastic job at interpreting the moods of Slime. I feel a distinctly supportive chemistry among the players. There’s also a rare and very appreciated element: one of the characters uses American Sign Language on stage for most of the play.

TOP: (top row) Ifechukwu Alachebe, Gabby Grant; (bottom row) Misaki Weddington, Nia Zagami, Zach Shields, Hannah Worley, and Sean DiGiorgio; ABOVE: Nia Zagami and Lucas Sanchez, in ‘Slime.’ Photos by Kiirstn Pagan.

As a bonus, the ensemble is omnipresent, executing impactful dance moments and manipulating the puppets that punctuate most scenes. The company’s costumes create an undulating ocean with their long sleeveless dresses of seafoam-dusted blue fabric, and they are used to great effect in the dance interludes and puppeteering scenes. The lighting is a favorite element, with bold choices like performer-held bulbs and total color washes that evoke significant emotion. The music in this production also seems carefully chosen, bringing us to a quiet place with contemplative piano pieces, while alternately energizing us with viral TikTok songs.

The beauty of Slime is that it reminds us that we need to be careful. It shows us what our future looks like if we aren’t more careful with our environment. But it also reminds us to be careful with our relationships, and with the people and creatures we meet every day. It’s a topic that cuts deep in many people’s hearts in post-pandemic times. I’m grateful that all these important messages are getting out there.

Running Time: 90 minutes, with no intermission.

Slime plays through April 14, 2024, at the Proscenium Theatre, University of Maryland, Baltimore County, 1000 Hilltop Circle, Baltimore, MD. Purchase tickets ($10–$15) online. For tickets to future UMBC events go here.

Costume & Puppet Design by Kehler Welland; Lighting Design by Adam Mendelson; Sound Design by Sarah O’Hallora; Scene Design by Emerson Balthis & Nate Sinnott

Cast: Dumbo – Misaki Weddington; Barb – Gabby Grant; Ola – Nia Zagami; God – Ifechukwu Alachebe; Frezzle – Sean DiGiorgio; Coco – Hannah Worley; EV – Zach Shields

Ensemble: AnnaSophia Gutierrez; Wesley Mauder; Christian Price-Burnett; Lucas Sanchez


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