By Thomas Infante
Arts & Entertainment Editor
The Decker Social Space was buzzing with energy the night of April 8, as a crowd of students and friends gathered for TCNJ Musical Theatre’s play competition, WIRED. WIRED is a competition held by TMT in which groups of students are given 24-hours to fully write, direct, produce, and finally perform their production onstage.
The participants of the competition were divided up into five groups, each with a pair of writers, a director, stage manager and acting cast. Each group was also assigned a genre to style their production on, as well as a fast food chain that the actors would reference in their dialogue. Twists in the writing, such as characters living double lives, ensured that each show stood out individually and gave the actors an opportunity to explore colorful and eccentric characters.
The first play, “The Power of Friendship,” centered around a group of college girls that are extremely passionate about environmental conservation. The main character Wendi, played by sophomore mathematics major Rebecca Conn, is very studious, caring about little besides her close friend named Wendy (sophomore Gretchen Newell) and her GPA.
Wendy and her classmates are initially overwhelmed by their new course about Dr. Seuss and white imperialism, and intimidated the professor that teaches it. When Wendy’s best friend takes an interest in joining a sorority, “Sigma Apple Pi,” Wendy belittles it and the two have a falling out. The show, which was obviously assigned the fast food chain Wendy’s, incorporated lots of relevant puns into the script, such as when someone asks the upset protagonist, “Why so frosty, Wendy?”
In the end, Wendy apologizes to her friend, who ends up losing interest in the sorority after all. As one of Wendy’s friends transforms herself into “Eco Warrior,” who uses her powers to end the drought in California as the cast all simultaneously said to the audience, “Everything will be okay…eventually.”
The second play was titled “Gotta Go Fast (Food),” and starred sophomore Katie Marciniak and sophomore history and secondary education major Michael Morack as Amy and Danny. They work at a gourmet Peanut Butter & Jelly sandwich store called “That’s My Jam” for their boss Miles (sophomore Soji Omotoso), who is ready to sell the slowing business to pursue an acting career.
However, Amy comes up with a new flavor of PB&J that is loved by everyone who tries the sandwich. Amy would only whisper her secret ingredient to those onstage, keeping the audience in suspense. Meanwhile, a disgraced former worker of the sandwich shop hears about the new sandwich, and plots to ruin the business as revenge for his firing.
In the end, the restaurant is saved by a food critic/wizard whose positive reviews magically revitalize businesses. Amy and Danny share a romantic kiss, and Amy reveals her secret ingredient to the audience: bananas.
The third play, “Brave New Mundo,” was styled after a Spanish soap opera. An enthusiastic narrator dressed in a suit with an unbuttoned undershirt, played by sophomore English and Secondary Education dual major Kevin Bizzoco, set the scene for the audience, and introduced the characters as they came onstage.
“I really try to put all of myself into the role,” said Bizzoco. “The show is dependent on how much energy we can all bring to it.”
The story began on a sunny June day, where we are introduced to a young couple, Steven (freshman biology major Matt Fertakos) and Juliet. Steven has noticed Juliet acting suspiciously lately, and that is because she’s been seeing Esteban (Eric Schreiber, junior chemistry major), the most passionate Taco Bell employee on the planet.
Despite Juliet’s love, Esteban’s heart yearns for his ex-girlfriend Maria (freshman physics major Cynthia Reynolds), who left Esteban for a Qdoba employee (Thomas Deangelis) after Taco Bell gave her diarrhea, which they refer to dramatically as “Taco Cancer.”
Scheriber’s performance as Esteban stole the show, and later on he was awarded best actor of the night by a panel of alumni. In an interview, Shreiber said that he looked to Gomez Addams of “The Addams Family” for inspiration.
“All of the roles were assigned to us, we got the scripts handed to us at 8am this morning,” Schreiber said. “We were thrust into a pretty crazy environment with these roles and we all have a lot of fun.”
In the heat of a confrontation between the couple, Esteban faced the crowd and tore his Taco Bell shirt in half from his collar, willing to give up even his livelihood for Maria’s love. Sadly, it was all in vain, as Maria leaves to be with Qdoba, sadly declaring, “I’m nacho woman anymore.”
Meanwhile, Steven and his mother (Joely Torres, Secondary Ed/English major) have discovered Esteban as the accomplice in Juliet’s affair, and began to stake her out to catch her in the act. Torres was excellent in her role, seemingly channeling Sofia Vergara in “Modern Family,” and delivering her lines passionately and punctually.
When they catch Esteban and Juliet, Steven’s mom comes to a realization, supported by a letter that Maria found at Esteban’s house. Steven’s mom reveals that she used to be a pop star called Stella Marbella. When she had Esteban out of wedlock, she gave him up for adoption in order to pursue her singing career. The story ends after they are reunited, as the narrator emphatically told the audience to “Find out next week on ‘Brave New Mundo!’” Junior communications studies major Kristen Gassler and junior English major Sarah Reynolds wrote the script, and were awarded best writing pair. The show was also awarded best overall by the alumni panel.
The fourth play was called “Thrill Her,” which stars senior psychology major Melissa Albert as Princess Katherine Berger IV, who lives with her grandparents after her parents and brother were killed in a “tragic windmill accident.” Katherine desperately wants to venture out on her own and find love, so she adopts the alias “Katie Noname” and goes on “Thrill Her,” a TV show similar to “The Bachelorette.”
Katie has four potential suitors. First is Collin (sophomore music education major Ben Reim), a self-obsessed goon in a tank top and backwards hat. On their date, Collin offers her one of his homemade protein shakes, and talks to his biceps like the angel and devil on his shoulder when he doesn’t know what to say to Katie. She likewise didn’t hit it off with Derrick (freshman Alex Hanneman), a farm boy who misses his livestock so much that he calls them before bed every night.
She hits it off with Ryan (junior communications studies and journalism/professional writing double major Ben Zander), a seemingly smooth and easygoing guy who takes her to see “Annie.” Katie really connects with the last guy, Steven (freshman Chris Blum). Katie tells Steven about the accident that killed her family, but mentions that they never found her brother’s body. Steven abruptly leaves, leaving Katie feeling confused after such an emotional moment.
Without Steven around, Katie chooses Ryan as the winner. He takes the opportunity to propose, but after Katie accepts, Ryan begins to act suspicious. When the couple goes for a walk on the beach the next night, Ryan ties Katie’s hands behind her back and reveals his plot. He knew she was royalty the whole time, and planned to kill her after they were wed for her money.
As Ryan prepares to throw Katie into the ocean to her death, Steven rushes to her aid, and overpowers Ryan with the help of the other bachelors and Katie’s grandparents. Steven reveals that he is Katie’s long lost brother, and the story ends with Katie reunited with the family she thought she had lost. Later in the night, Albert was awarded best actress, and the group won best ensemble cast.
The final play was titled “Who McDunnit?” A mystery with costume designs based heavily on “Scooby Doo,” the story focused on the members of Puzzlecorps, an independent investigative agency. Jay (freshman Casey O’neill), Harper (junior international studies major Julie Scesney), and Valerie (freshman elementary education major Kate Augustin) – closely resembling Fred, Daphne and Velma – run the agency with the help of their “Hardy Boys” wannabe trainees, Big and Mac (freshman Jason Monto and sophomore JPW major Kyle Elphick). After a series of crimes leave the detectives puzzled, Harper and a young woman named Sarah are kidnapped from the scene of a crime. Their captor is Morgan (Haley Witko), a ruthless yet classy criminal with a huge crush on Jay.
Morgan leaves a ransom note at the scene with her address on it, so Big and Mac go to her house disguised as McDonald’s delivery boys. They manage to sneak in, and discover that Jay in the midst of a romantic evening with Morgan. They also free Harper and Sarah, and the latter reveals herself to be an undercover FBI agent that was investigating Morgan. Valerie gets her glasses back so she can see, and the gang solves the case.
After the shows, the alumni panel gave awards to the groups who reacted jubilantly with each announcement. Sophomore WGS/communications studies major Katharine Smith was warded best stage manager for her work on “Who McDunnit?,” and senior JPW major Jonathan Edmondson won best director for “Thrill Her.”