Have you ever seen something and thought, “Who in God’s green earth came up with this?”
If you have, then maybe you’ll have felt a bit what I was feeling when I was watching “The Indefinitely Untitled Play,” the first of four theater pieces performed at the 19th Annual One Act Play Festival in Todd Union this past weekend.
Each play was written, directed, and performed by UR students, whose works were chosen via competition.
“The Indefinitely Untitled Play,” written and directed by first-year Olivia Banc, is an absolutely bonkers shaggy-dog joke of a play, with a joyously senseless plot that covers despots, goats, curtains, and turnips.
Sophomores Louis Herman and Malcolm Sutherland-Foggio and first-year Alina Mueller played their parts with fitting wackiness. Sophomore Theo Kaufman was fun and noteworthy as the deadpan contradiction to everything surrounding him.
But the main character here isn’t any one of the central players: It’s the playwright. Watching “Indefinitely Untitled,” I was getting to know the play’s creator, her sense of humor, her imagination, and her taste for the ridiculously silly.
The next play, “Compassion_Test.exe,” written and directed by senior Marc Laroussini, made the first one look like a friggin’ living room drama. In it, One and Two, played by first-year Henry Lasley and freelance actor Kiyomi Oliver, respectively, are having a conversation over dinner. Also they’re in colored, full-body skin suits and are part of a glitchy computer program. Plus almost all of the props are colored boxes of different sizes. I have actually never seen anything like this. So props to these folks for making my jaw hang open like a cartoon character about to be smashed with an anvil.
The next play, “Deadbeat,” written, composed, and co-directed by sophomore Noah Hammes (in collaboration with first-year Daniel Jersey), was an absolute tonal shift. This was a musical drama about a depressed, selfish, anxious, commitment-phobe, teenage musician Michael (first-year Alex Chase), and his fracturing relationship with his best friend Jared (Kaufman), in the long-term aftermath of his brother Matt’s (senior Ben Frazer) death. The music was touching and the performances stellar in this piece.
My favorite aspect of Hammes’ script is that every character is a victim. Michael and Patricia (Mueller) are victims of losing a brother and son. Jared’s girlfriend Jess (first-year Madeleine Fordham) is a victim of Michael’s projections and her boyfriend’s showy douchiness. Michael’s girlfriend Victoria (sophomore Savannah Byron) is a victim of Michael’s neglect. This level of human understanding in the writing combined with the use of music made this a remarkable emotional experience.
The next and final play, “The Ground Is Slop,” was an emotional gut-punch-spit-in-the-face written and directed by sophomore Emily Tworek. This is a piece about a guilt-ridden mother (brutally portrayed by Ph.D. candidate Nicole Sadaniantz) and her grief-stricken husband (a convincingly pained Frazer) who bury their miscarried child. Tworek offers no answer about death, grief, or guilt, but instead casts us into the questions with these two characters.
Whether they were silly, glitchy, touching, or wrenching, these plays were confident, risky, brave pieces of theater.