Wiess Freshman One-Acts
Mixed apples of temptation
Published: Thursday, September 20, 2012
Updated: Thursday, September 20, 2012 21:09
The much-venerated Wiess College tradition of recruiting starry-eyed freshmen to perform a slew of one-act plays, this year’s ranging from clever reflections on humanity to a ridiculous burlesque sketch, has come again.
The actors should be granted accolades for being bold enough to get up on stage in the first weeks of what can be an exhausting introduction to college life. However, there were several cardinal sins committed during the performance that stained the productions.
First: Do not, as an actor, make nervous “Am I doing this right?” eye contact with your reviewer. Not only are you obviously breaking whatever character, or caricature, you are performing, it also mars the flow of the production.
The second, third and fourth sins all fall under tech: Transition, lighting and sound cues are not afterthoughts to a production. Blackouts must be timed and precise. Otherwise your actors are left frozen, eyes darting nervously about the stage. Coupled with that, transitions between acts need to be swift and silent. A flimsy screen is not a backstage muffler. Sound needs to be louder and the audience does not need to hear you clicking away on your Macbook Pro to increase the volume. I understand that this is a low-tech ensemble production, but that does not mean sloppy tech.
All that being said, I found all the selections to be witty and pleasing enough. There were several stellar performances, namely Jonathan Rand’s “Drugs are Bad,” Bruce Kane’s “In the Beginning” and S.W. Senek’s “An Ongoing Examination of the True Meaning of Life.”
“Drugs,” directed by juniors Anne Wei, Jim Sheng, Luis de las Cuevas and Ian Kretz, was a delicious treat, inverting the stereotype of “good, straight-laced parents produce bad-apple kid” in a hilarious manner. (In this case, it would seem the more directors, the better.) Anne Wells and Vicky Comesanas star as Dad and Mom, two charmingly accented parents who bemoan the condition of their offspring, played by Teddy Hickman, a Princeton-educated, scientific journal-reading, skim-milk drinker. The energy between parents and child was spot on, from the incomprehension at such nefarious antics as learning to the exasperation of a teenager looking upon his seemingly dud parents. A twist at the end ties the piece up tidily and leaves the viewer jonesing for another.
Bruce Kane’s “In the Beginning” re-frames the classic Adam and Eve knowledge story in a bar with apple margaritas, one dumb lug and an Eve no man or serpent could resist. Adam, played by Ryan Deal, is stiff to the point of being excessively awkward in the first moments, but the scene livens up when Eve (Isabel Scher) sashays her smart self onto the scene and undoes that demure little sweater. Gavin Cross’s Serpent is unctuous, posturing and oh-so-slimy. The wardrobe in this play perfectly complements the setting and choreography. Accolades to sophomore directors Marie Chatfield, Helen “Andie” Eikenberg and Matt Keene.
Directed by juniors Meredith Jackson and Thomas Ladd, “An Ongoing Examination of the True Meaning of Life” steals the show. The act features a Narrator, played by Eric Stone, He, played by Sean Doyle and She, played by a crude dummy. He and She literally do steal the play away from the Narrator to enact a perfect revenge mirroring what the Narrator has spent the play putting He and She through. The pom-pom haired dummy in a green – no, yellow – no, green sweater was a laughably lumpy prop. The energy on stage was incredibly dynamic and kinetic. And the voices – the tones of the voices were spot on: so rich, so bold. I might even go so far as to liken Eric Stone, in his hapless actions and occasionally frenetic movements, to a bit of a young Hugh Grant. Maybe it was the momentary deployment of British accents and scenes on a park bench that unduly influenced me to appreciate the cheeky character.
Though these three top the list, there are humorous moments in all the performances. Sophomores James Dargan and Christian Hauser direct F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “Porcelain and Pink,” which starred Olivia Tati, Blaque Robeinson and Benjamin Laun. While a bit flat and lacking in chemistry, Lois Marvis’ blue nails create a mesmerizing effect, even from her position as Queen of the Tub.
Junior Leslie Nguyen and sophomores Annie Zeumer and Addison Verger’s treatment of Walter Wykes’ “The Tragical Tale of Melissa McHiney McNormous McWhale” involves a host of characters, outrageous costumes and salvation promised with a butter knife. Dropped lines and a musical miscue kept this production from staying afloat, despite its enormous derriere.
David Ives’ “Sure Thing,” directed by junior Jay Becton and senior Emily Nichol, was slightly undone by sound in that at first I could not even hear the bell ringing. An injection of pep and charm would go a long way.
Tracey Wilson’s “Small World” has the trickiest sound effects of the night in the coordination of all voices on stage. “Small World” is a solid performance with a cheeky twist, but a staleness in the interactions causes it to lag.
These one-acts will leave you chuckling even if they do not provoke awe or much contemplation. Perfect 80-minute fare to dip your toes into the college theater scene and a pleasant activity for families’ weekend.