‘Failure: A Love Story’ shares stories of love and loss

'Failure: A Love Story' shares stories of love and loss

The SU Drama production encapsulates life's best and worst aspects, highlighting the lessons that accompany a less-than-happy ending.
Published: November 14, 2022
'Failure: A Love Story' will be playing at the Syracuse Stage from Nov. 12 through Nov. 19.
'Failure: A Love Story' will be playing at the Syracuse Stage from Nov. 12 through Nov. 19.

How do we define failure? Life? Death? The SU Drama Department’s production of Failure: A Love Story brings an essence of positivity and hope when looking at a story of grief, concentrating on the aspect that “just because something ends, doesn’t mean it wasn’t a great success.”

The show follows the three Fail sisters, and the hopes, dreams and stories that pertain to each of them. In 1928 Chicago the fate of the three Fail sisters will eventually be their deaths, but the focus is the journey that they take navigating the realities that come with life: love and loss.

The oldest sister is Gerty Fail, played by Savannah Marie Devlin, who takes the matriarchal position after the death of the sisters’ parents and runs the family’s clock shop. Her independence, emotional depth and motivation to lead the family is a prominent characteristics that Devlin takes hold of as Gerty, as she is the last to die of the three.

“Gerty’s main priority at all times is making sure that the people she loves are all set and being taken care of,” Devlin said.

'Failure: A Love Story' will be playing at the Syracuse Stage from Nov. 12 through Nov. 19.
The three Fail sisters lean on each other as they face unfortunate odds.

The middle sister is Jenny June Fail, played by Tida Samantha Niles, who has loved swimming for as long as she’s been alive. The character of Jenny June is based on real-life Olympic swimmer Gertrude Ederle, who was the first woman to swim across the English Channel, beating the men’s record by two hours. As a competitive lake swimmer, Jenny June is determined and driven, so determined that she practices in the gross and contaminated Chicago River.

“She has a good outlook on life, and she’s ready to go do. If she has an idea or something that she wants to accomplish, she just does it no questions asked,” Niles said.

The last and youngest sister is Nelly Fail, played by Corinne Ferrer. With dreams of being a professional singer, Nelly is known for her bright-eyed enthusiasm and zest for life, as her first word was “Yes!” and her second word was “Hooray!” Her outlook on life unites her family throughout her show.

“[Nelly] is someone who I want to be. I want to be, as Corinne, someone who is present in the moment, live every day as if it is my last, and be super hopeful because I feel that is the main attribute that I admire about her so much,” Ferrer said.

There isn’t only love between family though in Failure: A Love Story, there is romantic love involved as well. The prominent love interest that enters into the lives of the three Fail sisters is Mortimer Mortimer played by Caleb Christensen. Different from conventional love stories, he interacts with all of the sisters, standing by them in times of grief and sorrow.

“His willingness to care for the ones in his life and his selflessness is probably my favorite thing about the character,” Christensen said.

'Failure: A Love Story' will be playing at the Syracuse Stage from Nov. 12 through Nov. 19.
The musical intertwines stories of love and loss in the lives of the Fail sisters.

The story is narrated by the chorus, an ensemble of eight actors. The chorus works as a group to tell the story with lots of physical movement and expression. Additionally, the chorus is a vital part of the creative process. Nicolette Smith, a member of the chorus, wrote original music for a set of lyrics in the show and plays the ukulele.

While the script is a blueprint for how the plot evolves in the show, SU’s production is uniquely different in the way its director, Professor Thomas Miller, has chosen to produce it. An important aspect that Miller looked for in auditions was the ideas that actors had to bring to the table, focusing on collaboration between actors and himself.

“I am of the firm mindset that the best idea wins. As a director, I am not attached to my ideas. I am just going to bring ideas and I want everyone else to do the same thing,” Miller said.

Failure: A Love Story celebrates failure and teaches the audience that it is needed in order to fully experience the essence of life. It is relevant today as success and competition are greatly emphasized, but failure is where real growth and learning come. As Miller states in his director’s notes in the program, “you are where you should be, and you are on your way.”

Failure: A Love Story premieres on November 12 and will run until November 19.