ACT shows just how far one act can go

Students give a strong performance in all four one acts. (Courtney Wirths / Business Manager)
Students give a strong performance in all four one acts. (Courtney Wirths / Business Manager)

By Priyanka Navani

Correspondent

From murder to philosophy to suicide to swizzle sticks, freshman elementary education major Emma Young can best describe All College Theatre’s presentation of “An Evening of Shorts” as “an emotional roller coaster.” Set on a small, intimate stage in Don Evans Black Box on Saturday Feb. 28, an “Evening of Shorts” was a four-play production entirely student-directed, including three plays that were also student written. Each play, though distinct in theme, all offered the same amount of quality acting, creative direction and thought-provoking ideas.

The first play, appropriately titled “ALeX,” after its main character who happens to be an android, told the story of true friendship, as seen through ALeX’s murder trial. Accused of shooting a pharmaceutical company CEO — who killed a subject during a risky surgery done to advance the company — a judge is hesitant to convict ALeX of a crime he had no motive to commit. As it turns out, ALeX was only covering for the friend of the killed subject. This proved he had an element of humanity despite his android programming.

Co-written by sophomore interactive multimedia major  Kathleen Fox and sophomore English major Emily Albright (who also directed the production), “ALeX” was a light and touching play that left the audience laughing with every bang of the gavel.

Next up was “Dead American Writers,” written and directed by sophomore English major Jake Burbage. “American Writers” provided a look into the shared space of Ernest Hemingway, Jack Kerouac and Sylvia Plath and the disagreements that came with such individual intelligence.

Filled with intense discussion, fist fights and plenty of crude jokes, the acting displayed in the play was truly impressive with the script often calling for one-liners, spit-fire debate and a severity found only in philosophical writing. With each esteemed writer advocating his or her view on what is real, Terra Heinzel-Nelson, a freshman psychology major, described this production as her favorite because she “had a lot to think about” after it finished. The audience, who was completely silent as the lights dimmed on the production, seemed to agree with Heinzel-Nelson.

Following a short intermission, senior English and secondary education major Blaire Deziel showcased her production of “Hometown Glory,” the story of lesbian couple Jo and Cassidy who dated throughout high school. After committing suicide, Cassidy continued to play ghost to Jo, who was subsequently unable to come to terms with her death. This changes during the night of their high school reunion, where the two finally discuss their feelings, allowing them to part amicably and for good.

“I wanted to write a show that inspired hope in spite of such negativity,” Deziel said. Reflecting on her own experiences and stories she read as a “queer young adult,” Deziel wanted her audience to know that “it will get better. Even if it’s not better right now, there is potential. It will get better.”

The final play, “For Whom the Southern Belle Tolls,” was a welcome laugh written by Christopher Durang and directed by sophomore communications major Brooke Buonauro. Set in the home of a wonderfully strange Southern family, “Belle” describes the life of a mother who desperately wishes her two sons were normal. Her oldest son, Tom, brings home Ginny, a practically-deaf warehouse worker who has no interest in men; the younger son, Lawrence, can’t seem to focus on anything but playing with and naming his collection of swizzle sticks. Adding humor to the show was the lovely Southern accent with which  each actor spoke and the natural stage presence each seemed to have.

Co-production manager and junior English secondary education major Rachel Friedman, who also starred in “Belle,” appeared proud of this year’s productions.

“It’s an amazing time for students to really take the lead and choose the shows,” said Friedman, who also noted the large amount of proposals All College Theatre (ACT) received this year for a spot in the production. Having acted in six shows for ACT, Friedman spoke with passion when she described the impact of the organization. She believes ACT provides an outlet for “students to use the skills that they wouldn’t ordinarily get to show in professional productions.

Another thing out of the ordinary was the absolutely flawlessly rehearsed nature of the entire production. Not one line was dropped in any of the four plays. Indeed, Saturday proved to be a job well done for all involved in “An Evening of Shorts.”