Courtesy of Michael Mayor

This past weekend, Todd Theatre hosted exciting, original, never before seen one-act plays. The shows, which were put on by 18 actors, four writers, four directors, told four interesting , though somewhat odd, stories. This is the festival’s 15th year.

The show on Friday, March 22  was performed to a house of enthusiastic theater supporters who braved the cold wind to attend the show. Audience members walked into a dark theater with upbeat music and flashing lights and took their seats in uncomfortable plastic chairs in the company of a large, T-rex scull covered in vines.

The lights came up for the first play on a simple set with an average-dressed woman holding an obviously empty pint of Ben and Jerrys. The first line she said was certainly enough to catch the audience’s attention: “I am fat.”

The play proceeded with short scenes that were linked together by monologues from the unnamed main character played by senior Kelsey Burritt. Burritt performed the part with humor and wit that had the audience laughing through the whole show. The people she interacted with were humorous caricatures of people in our own lives. It was not surprising to find out the students were based on real students that the writer knows. Burritt’s character was in an odd but relatable situation — she was in love with her best friend, who returned her affection but was unwilling to leave her boyfriend. Burritt’s character went through various stages of sanity, finally ending without resolution but with a sense of understanding.

The second play centered around a cult of anthropomorphic mice. There were deeper references to Jungian psychology, but it didn’t seem like most of the audience understood the references. After all, one would have to be a psychology or philosophy major to really appreciate the dialogue.

Regardless, the play was humorous and contained scenes ranging from a mouse trying to hang himself to mice in gold boxers dragging in the character of God on a cart while fanning him with palms. The play had charm but might have benefitted from a more extended  treatment with more explanation of the characters, setting, and all of the countless references.

The third play hit the audience close to home; it took place on the top floor of Rush Rhees Library. It opened with a typical scene: Brandon, a student played by sophomore Shane Saxton, sitting at a table studying note cards, cramming for his biochemistry final.

“He definitely takes studiousness to an extreme,” said Saxton of the character. “Part of the way I tried to play him was a parody of some of the kids on campus who are so focused on studying that they don’t wake up to other looming concerns around them.”

A quirky, awkward student named Oscar, played by Gouri Mahadwar, disturbed him. The first part of the play was completely believable; Mahadwar’s character asks Saxton’s character to move from her reserved table in the library. After an argument, he finally obliges just to get her to leave him to his studying.

The rest of the show was a little more abstract and unbelievable but still comical. The play includes Mahadwar’s character explaining how the dome on Rush Rhees will float away in a strong storm and that there is a nefarious group known as The Mephistopheles Club that is responsible for “every bit of mischief that goes down on campus.”

The show concluded somewhat ominously as Mahadwar handcuffs herself to Saxton’s character implying that they will have to brave the storm together.

The last show, “Henry Says Yes/Henry Says No,” had a cast of only two. It operated under the premise that each actor was performing a different show, or as the actors explained, “two shows for the price of one.”

The performance began as one play and told the story of a young girl and boy and their first romantic interactions. After Isabelle, played by freshman Emma Guilfoyle, poses the question that will determine their relationship, the characters diverge into different shows to fit two different answers to the question: yes or no.

From that point, the actors performed alone without reactions from their scene partners. Two different scenarios were cleverly done using alternating dialogue from the two different scenarios and artfully staged with a backlit scrim. In scenes such as the scene at the Sadie Hawkins dance, one character would interact with a shadow character, played from behind the scrim. This left only the silhouette of the other actor on the screen.

The show closed with another question posed by Henry, but this time, the question was answered in a way that united the two storylines again. This performance broke the fourth wall to pose the question of how simple choices and answers can shape one’s life.  It provided an entertaining end to an intriguing night at the theater.

After the show, a conversation with one of the actors brought out the backstory.

“It was interesting because for a while you forgot that there were other plays going on at the same time. They didn’t come together until the tech rehearsals before the actual festival,” said Saxton.

The plays were different from one another but were a great display of the talents of UR students. This is an annual festival, and all students are encouraged to enter.

Sanguinetti is a member of the class of 2015.

Mcauliffe is a member of the class of 2014.

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