Bigger isn’t always better: ‘Shorts’ are a hit

All College Theatre’s (ACT) “An Evening of Shorts” has become one of the more popular stops on the fall theater circuit here at the College.

Last year’s production was a sporadic combination of riotous action, cynicism, romance, absurdities and slapstick comedy. It was exhausting, it was well-performed, but it lacked a formula. It lacked a foundation.

For their 2007 production of “An Evening of Shorts,” the members of ACT sat down and selected four one-act plays that flowed into one another, running the gamut from ridiculous to poignant.

“The last (‘An Evening of Shorts’) was kind of all over the place,” James Van Strander, senior philosophy major and president of ACT, said. “But this one had a nice arc, almost a progression to it.”

The evening began with “Wake-Up Call,” a comedy written by Stephen Gregg and directed by Scott Sadowsky, senior history major.

The play kicked the night off at a ludicrous pace, warping the protagonist Jim, played by Ray Fallon, freshman English major, between two parallel worlds.

In one world, Jim wakes up beside his girlfriend Rochelle, played by Maddie Patrick, freshman journalism major, who is secretly plotting to poison her father. In the other world, Jim’s mother, Ashley Kipness, senior psychology major, who seems to have more than a maternal interest in her son, wakes him up.

While Rochelle’s father finds himself inching closer and closer to death in one world and Jim finds himself inching closer and closer to sitting next to Oedipus in a therapy session in the other, the audience is left pondering the age-old question of fact versus fiction.

As the play creeps toward its bizarre climax, a five-person chorus singing a haunting rendition of “Do Your Ears Hang Low?” creeps onto the stage, further complicating matters.

“Visitors from Chicago,” the evening’s second play, helped drag reality back toward center stage. Directed by Amanda Ganza, sophomore biology major and vice president of ACT, “Visitors” was a situational comedy revolving around a pair of couples who have grown sick of each other while on vacation.

After Beth, played by Lindsay Gelay, senior deaf and hard of hearing elementary education/English major, injures her foot during a tennis match, the two couples square off in a war of words that leads to broken glass, concussions, choke-holds and plenty of expletives.

“Shit . shitty shit, defecation!” Gelay screamed as her foot injury worsened.

The play provided plenty of one-liners and other more contemporary comedic tools. Mort, played by Chris Walsh, junior philosophy major, offering to buy his “buddy” Stu, played by Arun Gurunathan, sophomore biology major, a can of tennis balls so he could shove them up his ass.

After the intermission, Damian Trasier’s “Work in Progress,” directed by Alida Liberman, junior philosophy and English major, injected some food for thought in between the punchlines.

The play revolves around an author’s, played by Van Strander, three cookie-cutter pulp fiction characters as they approach the climax of a novel.

The cigarette-smoking P.I., played by Pat Lavery, sophomore communication studies major, and sex pistol Vamp, played by Cassandra Kahn, senior biology major, are about to complete their final encounter while the tragically underdeveloped Booky, played by Christy Hartigan, junior English major, looks on with indifference.

As the story proceeds, the characters voice their dismay with the Author’s plebeian writing skills, and both Vamp and the P.I. even take a turn writing the actual story.

The jokes are interrupted by Booky’s insight into Van Strander’s character, as she slowly reveals what each character represents about the author himself.

After the show, Lavery took the time to explain how preparing for the One Acts was different for such a character-driven piece.

“The thing I try to remember is that we get the same amount of time for a full-length,” Lavery said. “The development goes smoother. The characters need to be, (and usually are), perfect.”

Tony Kushner’s “Reverse Transcription,” which was directed by Tim Hinton, senior English major, closed the night on a peculiar note.

While the play was entertaining, it lacked the humor or clarity that the previous three pieces possessed. Many of the audience members left wondering why they had just watched six drunken playwrights spend 30 minutes babbling about burying a seventh, dead playwright.

Noticeably absent from this year’s production of “An Evening of Shorts” was the presence of student-created material.

Hinton spoke with The Signal after the show to address this matter.

“Our usual student writer (Jamie Manganelli, who penned last year’s fan-favorite “Fool for Love”) graduated. The only student-written proposal this year was too similar to ‘Work In Progress,'” Hinton said. “We aren’t moving away from student writing; we just didn’t have anything that was ready for the stage.”

For the second year in a row, the folks at ACT made the College laugh for two hours straight, while spiking the jokes with some intellectual fodder and delightful insight.

This next part might look familiar, but it’s the same conclusion I’ll reach every time I see this show.

In short, I’m still glad I saw their shorts.