Juliette Des Rosiers ’26
Copy Editor Intern
Over the weekend of October 6th, the Pomona College Theater invited audiences to the first show of their 2022-23 season: If nobody does remarkable things, a play by Emma Gibson. Staged in the Allen Theater, the play was set in a future not too far from now where the climate crisis led the planet to “the point of no return” (a phrase used throughout the play with seemingly some grand meaning attached to it).
The story focuses on protagonist Anna, a former climate activist who, on a whim, invites her ex-boyfriend Joel to take refuge in her house when a category 6 dust storm strikes her town. The audience is taken on a journey through Joel and Anna’s relationship to each other and to the climate advocate movement, guided by a narrator and accompanied by Anna’s husband Paul.
The show bounces between present and past, with the narrator offering intermittent insights into Anna and Joel’s tumultuous past. We learn of Anna’s leadership in the climate movement and how, although they were in love, Joel sold an unflattering picture of Anna dramatically crying to the Times, who twisted it into a scathing article that had disastrous consequences. The climate movement was viewed as fraudulent and in shambles, while Anna’s authority was destroyed and her safety put at risk by threatening skeptics. Lastly, we learn how Anna had a baby, June, just months after the article was published.
The narrator, played by Emily Cummings PO’23 and seated above the stage between two murals of galaxies, uses monologues to capture both Anna and Joel’s past, holding emotion in her voice that offers perspective for both characters. The narrator is dynamic even when silent, remaining an active observer, sitting and standing with the ebbing tensions of the play. At the end of the play, we learn that the narrator is in fact Anna’s daughter June, all grown up and an astronaut, achieving her dreams of writing (and narrating) the “first play from space.”
Onstage, the audience observes the products of 14 years worth of tension bottled into one room. Over the course of the play, Anna and Joel argue, Joel receives comical intimidation from Anna’s husband Paul, and gets to know Anna’s presently teenage daughter. Most importantly, however, Joel asks Anna to reenter the climate crisis movement. We watch as he attempts to apologize and undo her heartbreak, while simultaneously advocating for the resurgence of those attempting to wrestle the planet back from “the point of no return.” We watch as Anna slowly learns to forgive and says yes.
The shining star of If nobody does remarkable things is lead GiGi Buddie PO ’23. Buddie proves herself a skilled actor, holding deep emotion in her face that is relayed even when in profile. She also plays well off her scenemates, adding intimacy to Anna’s scenes with Paul and emotional insecurity to scenes with Joel. During arguments, Buddie’s face portrays Anna’s deep turmoil, but somewhat more impressively, her projected voice contained a huskiness that was extremely evocative in such a small space, drawing the audience even closer to her performance.
Another notable display of expertise during the production were the technical elements of the show. The set shows an unremarkable house without futuristic elements, subtly signaling to the audience that this post-apocalyptic world is not too distant from our current one. The galaxy murals positioned on a balcony above the stage establish a physical distance between narrator June and Earth, establishing two separate timelines. In the lighting design, the orange, crackling light used for the dust storm evoked tense unease that was skillfully exacerbated by the inclusion of sound effects and music, such as the recurring sonic motif of a heartbeat. Additionally, galactical music played over the narrator’s final monologue catapulted the audience into June’s version of the future, where climate change is no longer an imminent threat since Anna made monumental progress through her activism.
The supporting actors of If nobody does remarkable things also had the opportunities to shine in the production. Seb Barnhill PZ ’25, who played Anna’s husband Paul, exemplified how an actor can and should use physicality to establish their character. They used their entire body to establish Paul’s confidence and altered it depending on whether he was talking to Anna or Joel. Secondly, Xiangyi “Jazz” Zhu PO ’24, portraying teenage June, expertly used her voice to portray her youth in a way that didn’t feel forced nor a mockery. Lastly, although Aydin Mallery PZ ’24, playing Joel, did not employ physicality as masterfully, his ability to play off his scenemates and react well to lines or movements built humor surrounding his somewhat sweetly awkward character, especially in Joel’s scenes with the more acerbic wit of Paul.
The biggest takeaway of If nobody does remarkable things is… well, that there isn’t one. At the end of the show, I felt as if I didn’t know what the play wanted me to walk away with. One would assume that, in a play advertised as a commentary on our current climate crisis and the trajectory of our planet if we remain listless in climate policy, climate change would have been the focus. Instead, the climate crisis was used as a setting or, in the worst of instances, a mere plot device. It felt like a play more about finding forgiveness with the element of Anna and Joel’s relationship driving the plot, rather than climate activism being the primary driving force of the play. If the play had been set in another apocalyptic environment, say, a zombie apocalypse or alien invasion, my takeaways as an audience member would be comparable.
I wish to emphasize that the message misalignment with the intentions of the play was less at the fault of the actors than it is the playwright. It demonstrates a misunderstanding of audiences similar to the disappointing 2021 film Don’t Look Up; such a literal allegory actually disconnects audiences from the theme of climate change. In my opinion, we as a public audience have become so unfortunately desensitized to the calls for climate action that spoken art such as films and theater fail to move us into action.
Although the attempt at a compelling story of climate change did not land, If nobody does remarkable things exhibited student skills both onstage and offstage and was an enjoyable space to spend my Saturday night.
Image Source: Juliette Des Rosiers ’26