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THEATER REVIEW

What If... MIT Didn’t Have Playwrights?

Dramashop’s Student-Written One-Acts Intriguing, Relevant and Well Done

By Chikako Sassa

staff writer

Student-Written One Acts

Dramashop

Kresge Little Theater

Nov. 13-15, 8 p.m.

If the Crazy Man is Right

Written by Amy C. Fisher ’05

Directed by Kuuipo J. Curry ’04

Starring Yukyan Lam ’04, Greg J. Lohman G, Catherine Y. McCurry ’06, and Elizabeth V. Stephanopoulos ’07

Maxwell’s Equation

Written by Nancy L. Keuss ’04

Directed by Dimie Poweigha

Starring Jonathan Reinharth’06, Richa Maheshwari ’05, amd Marcus Lopez ’05

Tug of War

Written by Aaron P. Moronez ’04

Directed by Whitney Erin Boesel ’04

Starring Lenin A. Navar ’07, Aron P. Walker ’07, Sandra M. Chung ’04, Ryan J. Low ’04, and Holly B. Laird ’07

Subtle fantasies lurk everywhere in everyday life. If we change but a few critical variables in our daily order of things -- say, if I became a raving physicist precariously tottering on the threshold of a lunatic, or if I set the lab on fire and massacred all those darned PCs -- and so on, I will be living an altogether different and exciting life.

But how are fantasies to turn into reality without tangible work? And do we take that risk? Sadly, we go back to our labs like we always do, and contend with the horridly mundane blue screens of death.

Unless we take it out on stage.

Dramashop’s One Acts presented three fanciful but pertinent “what if?” situations written by, directed by, and performed to comic excellence by students at MIT. The plays were short, intriguing, and had satisfying endings.

What if the crazy man is right?

In “If the Crazy Man is Right,” playwright Amy Fisher and director Kuuipo Curry explored the relativity of craziness through the “friendship” between Cheryl (Yukyan Lam), a depressed psychologist whose husband had just left her, and her former patient and “crazy man” Adam (Greg Lohman).

Decked out in ski goggles, lab goggles, flashy biker’s duds and topped with a nonchalantly adroit performance by Lohman, Adam appears the paragon of a crazy man. We cringe as Adam awkwardly lunges toward Cheryl for her affectionate touch; Cheryl instead dispenses doctorly advice in a clinical manner in a desperate effort to forget that she could fall in love again. The dialogue is filled with anger, frustration, and hurtful underestimations as Cheryl and Adam sip caffeine-free herbal tea in mugs labeled “his” and “hers.” Then Judith (Catherine McCurry), Cheryl’s nosy neighbor and wishful femme fatale, invites herself in, and begins flirting outrageously with Adam.

McCurry’s skintight embodiment of Judith inserts hilarity into the stifling passive-aggressive interaction between Adam and Cheryl; at this point, the audience cannot help but wonder who really is crazy. A second outburst of craziness comes in the form of Cheryl’s daughter Dana (Elizabeth Stephanopoulos), who obliviously stomps in and out of her mother’s apartment and fails to recognize her mother’s misery.

The women are each consumed by their fundamental loneliness, and cannot see the others or their context. Amid this whirlwind of feminine hormonal imbalance, Adam is the only one able to stop rushing through life, take a step back, and observe the bigger picture of Cheryl’s sorrow. In the end, the play abruptly concludes when Cheryl breaks down in tears, and Adam offers genuine concern and affection toward her by these simple words: “You are going to be okay.”

Love, academic backstabbing, and Maxwell

What if he who brings you amorous inspiration to your otherwise dreary life as a math graduate student just so happened to belong to a rival research group? “Maxwell’s Equation” is rife with geeky humor, much to the delight of an audience who draw daily sustenance out of the same material.

Love and academics gets tangled in an egregious manner to bring about the most inequitable of consequences in Maxwell: The suave and brilliant physicist Richard (Marcus Lopez), who discovers an equation to solve a century-old conundrum, loses both his beloved Eve (Richa Maheshwari) and his brilliant equation to Maxwell (Jonathan Reinharth), a beguiling and dishonest graduate student who shares his office with Eve and has a secret crush on her.

The twist in the plot is simple enough to be anticipated, and the ending of the play presents no real surprises. However, the see-through plot nevertheless keeps us interested until its conclusion, because there is guilty pleasure in observing the downfall of a benign but guileless Richard, who learns that success does not always come with honesty and hard work.

The cruel ending satisfies us, and makes a cynical commentary on the petty politics and competitive nature of graduate research work at top academic institutions such as MIT. Maheshwari’s flirty and innocent interpretation of Eve added buoyancy and kept the play going.

The oddest of love triangles

What if a surrogate mother fell in love with the gay partner of the man whose baby she is to carry? The final fairy tale in a series of three, “Tug of War” sheds light on what can happen when making a baby through a purely clinical procedure becomes entangled with sex and desire.

The tug-of-war centers on John (Aron Walker), who is an all-out gay as well as a closeted bisexual, and two people sincerely and insincerely in love with him: his partner and fellow parent Ben, played with gusto by Lenin Navar; and Jennifer (Sandra M. Chung), the single and desperate surrogate mother who finds love in absolutely the wrong place. Though Ben and John sought out Jennifer for in vitro fertilization, Jennifer seeks out carnal love -- and gets a one-night stand -- from John. John simultaneously discovers his bisexuality, and struggles with tremendous guilt at having impregnated Jennifer and cheated on Ben.

The three are bound together by their individual claim to and love for the baby; their choices of whom to raise the baby with, however, threaten to destroy the life of the one left behind in this triangular mess. In the end, John confesses, Ben agreeably forgives, and Jennifer is left alone to carry the baby to term without love -- but for a mere five seconds. The play ends when the darkly handsome waiter (Ryan Low) locks eyes with Jennifer, and foreshadows a happy ending for all.

After the plays, Dramashop hosted a talk-back session, which emphasized the group effort that was required to put these shows on. The level of amiable collaboration between the writers and directors, directors and actors, and the cast and crew members of the production was a heartening sight to see. The evening was a testament to the synergistic efforts of Dramashop actors and production staff to bring about enriching theater for the MIT community. This annual theatrical ritual is definitely not to be missed.