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Great performances from students' plays

Adriane Chapman--The Tech
In Five Fake Dreams in Six Short Scenes, Ethan (Kevin Simmons '98) finds the one beautiful thing in the office, but his supervisor (Andrea Zenglon '99) doesn't share his enthusiasm.

Dramashop One Acts

Kresge Little Theater.

November 14 to 16.



Written by Lawrence K. Chang '97.

Directed by Van Van '97.

Starring David Day '98, Janet Chieh '99, Lin-Ann Ching '98, and Ken Clary '00.

Cyril and Harry

Written by MacMurray D. Whale G.

Directed by Charles Armesto '96.

Starring Ken Michlitsch '98 and Rob Marcato '97.

Five Fake Dreams in Six Short Scenes

Written by Eddie Kohler G.

Directed by Avi C. Weiss '98.

Starring Kevin Simmons '98, Sean Levin '97, Jeremy Butler '98, Rachael Butcher '98, Aomawa Baker '97, and Andrea Zengion '99.

By Teresa Huang
Staff Reporter

MIT's Dramashop recently produced its annual series of student-written and student-directed One Acts with great success. Anyone thinking that MIT students are not creative should think again. This year's series displayed enormous amounts of talent in the writing, directing, and acting in three plays, SidiS, Cyril and Harry, and Five Fake Dreams in Six Short Scenes.

The first play of the evening was SidiS, written by Lawrence K. Chang '97 and directed by Van Van '97, which brings the song "Killing Me Softly" by the Fugees to life. SidiS is the name of a restaurant in Boston, appropriately owned by Sid (Ken Clary '00), to which Gwen (Janet Chieh '99) brings her friend Quin (David Day '98) to celebrate his promotion to Tier Manager at his company.

Quin seems uncomfortable at the restaurant and tells Gwen later that it was at SidiS that his college girlfriend, the only girl he ever loved, left him. We don't hear much more about her at the time, but soon enough the college girl shows up at the restaurant, turning out to be pop star Jill Lee (Lin-Ann Ching '98), whose hit song "Blur in a Dream" was written about Quin.

The triangle of relationships and the uneasy situation created was most interesting. Was Gwen just a distraction or a possibility for Quin? Was Jill playing with Quin's emotions by writing a song about him or was she expressing her feelings? The conflict between songwriter and subject was strong and their interaction was wrought with resentment and tension, excellently carried by Ching and Day. Playwright Lawrence K. Chang '97 said after the performance that part of his inspiration for the script came from listening to Top 40 radio and wondering whether love songs were just fiction or if there was some truth behind them and how someone would respond to a having a song written about them.

The relationship between Chieh and Day was more troublesome. Their intentions and motivations were made clear through their words, but the interaction itself was not believable. The audience knew how they should be interacting, but it was not always right. Chieh came off as haughty and a bit too comical in her voice inflections and motions, creating an interesting blend of humor and severity which may have not been in the script.

Perhaps the weakest part of this play was Sid, the owner of the restaurant SidiS. Besides representing an element of Quin and Jill's past, his significance in the plot is fuzzy and a little too convenient.

The most interesting part of SidiS was "Blur in a Dream," the fictional song by Jill Lee. Including an original song in the script that needed to be a believable Top 40 hit was a bold move by the playwright, and though the excellent music by Elissa Lee '98 and Peter Cho '97 was up to the task, the result was a little cheesy and may have been an unnecessary addition to the play.

Cyril and Harry was the second play of the series, written by MacMurray D. Whale G and directed by Charles Armesto '96. The title characters Cyril (Ken Michlitsch '98) and Harry (Rob Marcato '97) fight, throw papers, and wax philosophical while working in a non-descript office doing non-descript paperwork. The audience immediately questions who they are and what their interaction means in this extremely complex and powerful play.

Definite dichotomies between their characters are created, explored, and expanded. Harry is neat, organized, and exact while Cyril is lax and disheveled in appearance. Harry does his work and Cyril doesn't. Cyril dreams and Harry doesn't. They are thought to be opposites at first, or at odds with each other, but it is evident at the end that they are exactly the same, as the characters themselves state. Boundaries are broken, and a lot of questions are asked. Who is living? Who is dreaming? Cyril dreams but goes no further. Is Harry not living because he only works?

The questions are explored in a terrifically subtle manner. Armesto told the audience after the performance that when he was directing the actors, he did not plainly explain to them the message they would be conveying - he did not want them thinking of their characters in terms of the other character - but rather developed each character separately. The result was two fantastic individuals who were people, not mere representations of the play's message. Their interaction is real, though they convey ideas on a much higher level. The intensity and talent of the writer, director, and actors were evident in every aspect of Cyril and Harry, making it my favorite performance of the series.

Five Fake Dreams in Six Short Scenes, written by Eddie Kohler G and directed by Avi C. Weiss '98, was the final play of the evening and definitely the most unusual. The dreamer Ethan (Kevin Simmons '98) opens the play with plenty of cursing over stubbing his toe, only to find himself in the cheesiest representation of Heaven imaginable crossed over with the Land of Oz. His dreams lead him through incredibly creative, provocative, and humorous situations until he finally finds himself chatting with Vladimir (Jeremy Butler '98), who is described in the program as the "angelic bureaucrat."

The script carries a dream-like quality through the scenes very well, and the constant bewilderment of the dreamer Simmons adds to the effect. All of the acting was excellent. A five-member cast supports Simmons in his dreams in a variety of characters, including everything from a perverted Tin Man (Sean Levin '97) to Pippi Longstocking (Aomawa Baker '97) to tacky angels (Andrea Zengion '99, Rachael Butcher '98, and Baker).

The details of Ethan's dreams were far-fetched and fantastic. Kohler could probably go work for Quentin Tarantino with this on his resume. The script was complex and filled with questions and revelations, as most dreams are. As Ethan says, "Dreams ask the questions you don't want to ask maybe the questions need to be asked." Each dream was carefully constructed and presented with its own costume and lighting scheme, and each with its own personality. Five Fake Dreams in Six Short Scenes contained some of the most brilliant acting and writing of the evening, and was most exceptional.

Dramashop's student-written and student-directed One Acts was young talent at its best. The series gives opportunities to students interested in all aspects of the theater and is one of the most important theatrical endeavors of the MIT community. All three plays showed extremely impressive amounts of genius and hard work, showing that leaving something in the hands of MIT students is sometimes the best thing to do.