Intro Shorts Showcase New Talent

Tess Yanisch

Last weekend, the Theater 101 class put on its showcase, displaying the skills of the enrolled students. According to Matthew Wright, the class’s professor of record, all these actors are first-semester Obies, and all but one are first-year (apparently there’s a transfer student in the mix somewhere). Their levels of experience, however, vary widely. The directors were also students, upperclassmen, most of whom also began their Oberlin theater careers with Theater 101.

The short plays, all well done, covered many themes, tones and genres. So many students meant many plays — thirteen in total — that required two separate programs, each a little over an hour in length. I attended both.

Each play presented distinctly memorable lines or images. First-year Theresa Rebeck’s Katie and Frank, directed by junior Jenny Gaeng, painted a vivid picture of desperation in which an exhausted wife, played by Llewie Nuñez, tries to explain to her self-absorbed husband (William Hofmann) that she is tired of being ignored.

Despite being in therapy, her attempts to feel better are consistently thwarted by Frank’s uncaring attitude and the blame she receives from Frank’s mother when he doesn’t call. He obliviously continues his daily routine, yelling that he can’t find the toothpaste, and tunes out her quiet, shaky revelation of “I bought a gun, Frank” until said gun actually appears in her hand.

For the first time in years, he listens to her and pays attention to her needs, leading to a terrifying-yet-funny moment in which he cries out, “What do you want?” Katie pauses, shaking, and says, “I want you to call your mother.” Nuñez did a great job portraying a woman on the edge, while Hofmann made a natural, smooth transition from arrogant to fearful. The play ended with Frank picking up the phone, slowly, at gunpoint.

Tony Kushner’s Reverse Transcription examined six drunk playwrights as they co memorate a dead writer, musing on the nature of success, inspira- tion and meaning. Directed by College junior Heather Harvey, it starred Jordan Feinstein, Charlie Dolph, Sam Sterman, Karyn Todd, Jackson Kent, Joshua Cartee and Audrey Bader. The complex relationship among these writers and their attitudes toward each other — ranging from jealousy to admiration to scorn — are especially interesting because of the meta nature of the show. It’s a play that recognizes and satirizes common types or stereotypes of playwrights.

It begins with a short narration in which the deceased writer (Ding, played by Bader) directly addresses the audience. Correctly noting that six highly verbose characters are a lot to take on in a short play — the full title is Reverse Transcription: Six Playwrights Bury a Seventh, A 10-Minute Play That’s Nearly 20 Minutes Long — Ding adds something to the effect of, “What the hell. We’ll talk fast.” What I found most fascinating is that, while there are six very different characters and most of them do talk pretty fast, I still got a strong feel for the nature and values of each person: a testament to the clear character choices and steady pacing of the actors.

In a more comical vein, sweet-natured George (David Tisel), a charity collector, falls victim to a cruel trap sprung by Sammy (Michaela Bergman-Turnbull), a prostitute, and Elvis (Alex Deeter), a truly bizarre cop, in Walter Wykes’ appropriately- titled Blue Christmas.

College junior Philip Waller directed this show, which also featured Joonkyu Kang and Adele Schumann. Again, the portrayal of the characters was particularly striking. Tisel did a great job of being a naïve, idealistic boy enjoying the community service after Elvis, who pulled him over for not using his turn signal, found pot in his car.

When Bergman-Turnbill arrives and yells at him for taking her corner, he at first assumes she’s working for a rival charity. However, the truly interesting developments occur as the two continue to interact. Her amused condescension and his shy lust create a humorous atmosphere, even when the dialogue isn’t explicitly funny.

In the end, after much cajoling, he decides to take some of the donated money and take her out for dinner — and maybe something else besides. It is at this point that Elvis appears and both he and Sammy denounce George for being so cruel and heartless as to steal from the children. He is led off to jail, thoroughly confused. Strange though the premise was, every moment of the show was absolutely priceless.

All in all, every play was both interesting and satisfying. It will be exciting to follow the careers of these young actors through their college years.