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theater review: Dramashop Highlights MIT Theatrical Talent

Student Writers, Directors, and Actors Join Forces in Impressive One-Act Performances

By Jillian Berry

Student One-Acts


Kresge Little Theater

Dec. 1-3, 8 p.m.

The MIT Dramashop presented the 2005 One-Acts in Little Kresge Theater this past weekend. The show was composed of five short skits — “One-Acts” — written, directed, and performed by MIT undergraduate and graduate students. The show felt like one I might see in a small city theater, with a set that consisted only of black cubes, so as not to distract from the performers’ acting.

The first act, “Outside Room 943” (by Kayla D. Jacobs ’06, directed by Catherine Havasi ’03), comically showed the foiling of a woman’s (Gireeja V. Ranade ’07) attempted suicide. The skit began with the woman about to jump from the 9th floor of a hotel, when Frederick (Nicholas L. Harrington ’09), the British guest in room 943, interrupts her. Frederick refuses to notice that the woman is about to jump to her death as he has a trivial conversation with her. Frederick even asks the woman out to dinner.

Through Frederick, the woman realizes her mistake and decides she can always jump tomorrow. The actors humorously and realistically portrayed their characters, and were in perfect sync. I particularly liked the extended moments of silence in which no one was quite sure what to do. Often, actors seemed too intent on saying their lines when more could have been said through silence than words.

Next came “The Barren Tender of a Poet’s Debt” (by Jonathan Reinharth ’06, directed by Ashley E. Micks ’09), which portrayed college student Laurence’s (Matthew S. Peairs ’09) struggle to form a relationship with the love of his life, Sonia (Laurel L. Ruhlen ’06). Much of the performance revolves around Laurence, Sonia, and Eric (Elliot A. Prechter ’06) discussing the relationship in Dostoevsky’s “Crime and Punishment.” The skit was unique in that it switched between the outer world and Laurence’s thoughts by altering the lighting to create an almost surreal atmosphere. Matthew Peairs created a sympathetic character whose plight was felt by the entire audience.

The next two works, “[Untitled]” and “Titling [Untitled]” (by Usman Akeju, directed by Jeff Klann ’01), were two skits that presented the same words in different contexts. “[Untitled]” has four characters (Deepa Mokshagundam ’09, Kathleen Connolly ’05, Alex W. Moore G, Shanying Cui ’09) who appeared to be participating in multiple random situations.

I did not really understand the piece, and I was not alone. The piece made a little more sense, however, after seeing “Titling [Untitled],” in which the same characters repeated the same lines, but each situation had a different theme that the audience voted on before the show. For my night, the themes were a Spanish soap opera, a Mystery, and a Jerry Springer episode. Based on this second part, I think the point of the two works was to show that the piece could be performed one of many ways using the same lines. Thus, the lines were not as important as the acting. The acting was very good, even though I was confused most of the time.

The final performance was “The Cruelest Month” (by Sunny Y. Wong G, directed by Tess R. Diduch ’06). This work followed Sidney (Guy Hoffman G), a scientist who is waiting to hear if he will receive the Nobel Prize. He has waited for 10 Octobers, and he thinks this year is his last chance. To relieve some of his anxiety he takes a walk, where he runs into the Trenchcoat Woman (Gabrielle Abousleman W ’08). This woman offers to guarantee him the Nobel Prize in exchange for all his hair (which will never grow back). He thinks about this proposition and discusses it with his wife and a former friend (both played by Brianna G. Veenstra ’09). More than the loss of his hair, he wants to receive the prize on merit, so the decision is a struggle for him. In the end, he decides to keep his hair, and he ends up winning the prize. The performance was successful despite only having three actors for seven characters, and it was a great end to the show.

After this final piece there was a short question and answer session with the cast and crew, mediated by Hayden Taylor of Dramashop. It was very informative — I, for instance, never knew MIT actually had theater majors. Overall, the acting was wonderful, and everyone seemed to really enjoy the show. I was truly amazed by the talent of the actors and the writers, and impressed by the dedication they must have had to put on such a great performance.