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Dramashop One-Acts Take the Stage

“Unfocused,” “Super Funtastic World,” “Crush” Exhibit Talents of MIT Students

By Sandra M. Chung

Dramashop’s two-hour fall show consisted of three one-act plays. All three plays were written, directed, produced, and performed by students. “Unfocused,” “Super Funtastic World,” and “Crush” showcased the talents of 21 undergraduates and graduate students.

“Unfocused,” written by Anand D. Sarwate ’01 and directed by Deborah Lui ’02, is a difficult dramatic sketch that only a limited audience can fully appreciate. Vivek (Chetak Reshamwala G) is a feckless Johns Hopkins student living with his responsible older sister Padma (Niyati Gandhi ’02). Vivek drifts aimlessly, having shirked academics after mismanaging his workload and bombing several classes. Padma is frustrated and angered by Vivek’s sloppy habits and indignant rejection of her officious advice. The once-close siblings quarrel viciously about their lives until Padma hits upon the roots of Vivek’s insecurity.

The complicated and partially improvised choreography made use of many props. The actors deftly handled the plethora of objects but struggled somewhat when they weren’t carrying objects. Though Gandhi started out quite cold, with forced gestures and awkward posture, she quickly developed strong facial expressions and by the end of the play had progressed to a nicely animated performance. Reshamwala was funny but monotone in voice and manner; he never quite convinced me that the laid-back Vivek was really upset.

During the question-and-answer session following the performances, Sarwate explained that he rewrote his script several times, finalizing it only about a week before opening night. The constantly changing lines may have been a factor in the lack of realistic ebb and flow in the dialogue. Short outbursts, especially in the body of the quarrel, were well-timed and delivered with appropriate emphasis, but longer passages tended to spill out mindlessly, without the natural pauses or irregularities that occur when people think about and react to what has been said. Regardless, the content of the lines outweighed their delivery, and Gandhi and Reshamwala did a respectable job with the most difficult piece of the three.

The cast of “Super Funtastic World” clearly enjoyed the wacky, over-the-top characters in the warped script by Dan Katz ’03. Barky (Sam Ribnick ’05) is the newcomer in a troop of amusement park workers who make a living out of dressing up in goofy animal suits and entertaining children. Meow Meow (Tiffany Ellis ’03), the worldly group leader, introduces Barky to Moo Moo (Christine Fry ’05), an alcoholic drama queen, and Ribbit (Pearlin Cheung G), a jumpy, over-caffeinated frog. The characters gripe about belligerent children and, to Barky’s horror, about the dearth of employment options for “giant humanoid animals.” Are those really costumes? Devious plot twists, humor, and a giant tarantula leg provided a welcome contrast to the two serious plays.

“Crush” explores infatuation and sexual frustration with a network of interconnected relationships. Molly (Ginny Corless ’05), a frankly sexual creature who shares her bed with Andrew (Camilo Aladro ’04), goes on the occasional date with Riley (Alan Gardner ’05), a witty, earnest fellow with a childlike vulnerability. Riley is wholly in love with Gale, a dreamer who can’t choose between her affection for Riley, her obsession with Andrew, and emerging lesbian feelings for Molly. Riley faces his own dilemma, fending off the obsessive advances of Liz (Youngsun Cho ’05), while wallowing in the loneliness of his unfulfilled love life.

The mostly freshman cast handled sexual innuendo and intellectual jokes equally well. Alan Gardner ’05 and Masha Kamenetska ’05 gave standout performances as Riley and Gale, respectively. Their scenes together draw the audience into their world with compelling subtlety, down to the way Riley delicately cradles Gale’s hand and the conflicted expression on her face after she turns away from a would-be kiss. Aladro exhibited excellent comic timing, and Cho dove unabashedly into Liz’s neurotic enthusiasm.

Playwrights Whitney E. Boesel ’02 and C. Scott Ananian G pulled much of the script’s dialogue from real conversations. Julia Zeitlinger directed a tightly engineered piece which capped off a thoroughly entertaining night of Dramashop theater.