From Friday, March 20 to Sunday March 22,  Todd Union’s annual one-act play showcase featured four short plays, each directed and written by UR students.

The plays ranged from comical to poignant to downright disturbing, bringing out the best of UR student actors and writers.

The first play, “One Night Stand,” followed the interactions between a guy and a girl who met at a college party and ended up sleeping together. The play, directed by sophomore Simranjit Kaur Grewal and written by freshman Emily Scarpulla, was creative and engaging. Junior Lena Jenny and sophomore Edwin Aguila played the consciences of Janie, played by sophomore Emma Walsh, and Nate, played by senior Michael Mayor. While at times the expletive-heavy dialogue felt like a  corny over-simplification of how college kids speak, the play grippingly portrayed the confusion and heartbreak of young love. In addition, the play used its minimal stage props to effectively recreate the feeling of being at a college party. As it began the lights dimmed a purple glow, Flo-Rida bumped in the background and the actors held on to their red solo cups. When the play ended and Nate woke up in bed alone, melancholy pop music played him out as he bent over with the weight of a broken heart. He didn’t say a word from this point on, but he didn’t have to: the audience felt his pain.

The next play, “Sweet,” took a turn for the weird. The act, directed by sophomore Jordan Polycn-Evans and written by junior Jahnavi Iyer, followed Reese, played by freshman Ari Geller. Reese was prepared for a normal date at the home of his love Alex, played by  sophomore Julianne McAdams. However, the situation quickly became unsettling as Reese was held hostage in Alex’s house by an escaped mental patient and his psychotic sidekick. While it wasn’t a very surreal show, it was certainly uncomfortable. Senior Rachael O’Neil, played Sidney, one of Reese’s captors, and did an excellent job of acting like a convincing psychopath. Each time Sidney’s smile got tighter and tighter, and she yelled at Reese not to swear, she felt less like a character and more like a genuine crazy person. As a whole though, things went from strange to downright horrifying as cattle prods, chainsaws and blood-curdling screams entered a scenario which was all too real to be a nightmare.

Arguably one of the highlights of the night was the play “Buyer,” directed by sophomore Aishwarya Krishnamoorthy and written by graduate student Karl Smith. The play focused on “The Buyer,” a devil figure played by senior Leah Mould. “The Buyer” saw clients and offered to solve any problem they had—for a price. The main focus of the play was on two of “The Buyer”’s particular clients–a lost girl who just wanted to help others, and a devoted mother who just lost her son in a motorcycle accident. The Buyer followed through on her promise to make her client’s problems go away–but she created newfound suffering in the process. Just like Sidney captured lunacy, “The Buyer “captured pure evil with her cackling laugh and knack for persuasion.

The last play of the night, “The Misery of Time’s Will,” was the most serious of the four. Directed by sophomore Murie Gillett and written by sophomore Saad Usmani, the play followed the story of    Farah, played by senior Gouri Mahadwar and her son Ali, played by sophomore Rahul Manay.

In Roshni’s world, her son had died in a Taliban raid. However, in reality Ali was captured by the Taliban and turned into one of their soldiers. The play offered a humanizing and heartbreaking perspective on how Muslim youth turn to religious extremism. The most poignant part of the play was its climax, where Ali was shot by a police officer in his own home, with his mother by his side. As Ali lay in his mother’s arms, Roshni was faced with the immense grief and conflict of being reunited with a son who has turned to darkness, but she was unquivering in her love for her son. In a time where the media is saturated with news of terrorist extremism, “Misery” challenged its audience to view the issue from a different perspective.

Overall, the one-act plays were tremendously diverse, engaging and well-thought out.

TOOP’s next production, “Blithe Spirit,” premieres at Drama House Thursday, March 26 at 8 p.m. If the one-act plays were any indication, it’s going to be one hell of a show.

Howard is a member of the class of 2017.

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