ACT hosts dark, fantastical one-acts

ACT president Maddie Patrick led the proceedings as characters auctioned a boy who turned into a violin in ‘Lot 13: Bone Violin.’ (Tim Lee).

The word that best describes All College Theatre’s (ACT) production of four one-act plays on April 15 is “perseverance.” Despite the limitations imposed by a less-than-ideal space in room 202 of the Brower Student Center, ACT presented a series of compelling student-directed shorts ranging in subject from a lunatic ex-girlfriend to a compassionate reaper.

In “The Dumb Waiter,” Mark Smith, junior communication studies major, as Ben, and Jack Scully, sophomore English major, as Gus, managed to overcome the noise of other events occurring simultaneously in the Student Center that, at times, overwhelmed the room.

Smith humanized the role of assassin with notes of compassion, extenuated by Scully’s oblivious fast-talking. The dynamic between the two actors, though entertaining, faltered at times, interrupting the flow of the play and inspiring the same cabin fever portrayed on stage amongst the audience.

Director Justin Mancini, sophomore English major, said he chose the “The Dumb Waiter” as a fan of the movie “In Bruges,” which was highly influenced by the play. Mancini said the primary challenge of the play was “creating realistic banter” between the two characters. Though they largely achieved this, the length of the play detracted from character engagement with the audience.

“Don’t Fear The Reaper” both closed and stole the show. The fantastically ridiculous play personified Death, played by Art Malarczyk, junior computer science major, and his overly sweet wife, Conception, played by Jacki Ferrara, sophomore elementary math education major.

Malarczyk conveyed the misplaced compassion of Death toward his victims through exaggerated intensity as the messenger of fate. The personas constructed by each character made for hilarious interactions.

Keith Salmeri, freshman history political science major, as Robert and Claire Symanski, freshman biology major, as Jessica, perfectly portrayed an initially selfish couple, each willing to sacrifice the other to Death stationed at their front door.

Each character fleshed out individual quirkiness — Julian Starr, sophomore physics major, elicited explosive laughter as Jeremy, the bug reaper, when he traded his nasally voice for a demonic one. Hannah Adamy, freshman music education major, as Satan captured the seductive, enthusiast of evil with ease, contrasting with sophomore communication studies major Sam Paternostro’s collected demeanor as a business-oriented God.

Equally ridiculous was Sergio Hernandez, sophomore vocal performance major, as the unfortunate Steve, visited by the Reaper after falling asleep with chips in his mouth and Matt Kita, sophomore chemistry major, as Donny Destiny, the token superficial talk show host. The play thrived on the hysterical implications of its characters, while echoing the eternal need to validate life in fear of death.

According to director John Eldis, sophomore psychology major, “Wanda’s Visit” is a play that “lives and dies on the believability of the characters.”

Caitlin Dougherty, senior biopsychology major, was hysterical as the eccentric Wanda. Though outrageous, Dougherty managed to make the unrealistic insanity demanded of Wanda’s character believable.

Dan Loverro, freshman biology major, as Jim, and Rhonda Dubois, sophomore chemistry major, as Marsha, contrasted drastically with Wanda as an ordinary couple faced with the unusual burden of housing Jim’s seemingly unstable ex-girlfriend. However, the rotation of setting throughout the play proved somewhat distracting, primarily due to limitations of space and occasionally awkward pantomiming.

“Lot 13: Bone Violin” introduced a more serious tone to the night, presenting the haunting commentary of four individuals involved in the life and death of a child prodigy.

Each character seemed tailored to the cast member — producing genuinely provocative performances. Liz So, sophomore self-designed international studies major, and Casey Perno, sophomore history major, posed as the parents of the child. Perno’s gruff, but approachable persona and So’s sweet admiration for her son convinced of average parents unable to explain tragedy for which no one and everyone is at fault.

Noah Franc, sophomore history and international studies major, as the professor, and Keri Galli, senior English major, as the doctor, were equally authentic in their delivery, conveying intellectuals through careful posture and voice.

The most chilling aspect of the performance, however, was delivered by Maddie Patrick, senior sociology and communication studies major, who acted as conductor through each player’s account of the story.

Patrick closed the show by starting the bid for the boy’s body-turned-instrument. The presentation — each character positioned behind a music stand facing the audience — directly confronted the audience with the powerful message of the tragedy innate in pursuing one’s dreams.

Despite the night’s distractions, ACT adapted to the interferences. According to Alexis Vitello, production manager and sophomore history and art education double major, ACT is restricted to one performance per semester in the Don Evans Black Box Theatre, a preferable locale for the intimacy complementary to One Acts.

Despite the room’s poor acoustics and difficult set-up, Vitello said, “We made the best of our circumstances.”