The unfolding plays in the International Theatre Program’s 18th Annual One Act Play Festival caught my attention with the mystery of what was yet to come, and then held that attention with twists and turns packed into the short time allotted to them. The creativity and energy of the students involved with the One Acts was striking, and each play had its own distinct voice.

Below, I have listed and reviewed the one act plays in ascending order of how much I personally enjoyed them:

5. “A few interactions between strangers-three short plays”

The three short plays, each featuring a different set of two strangers, played off of conventional ideas of stranger danger—specifically, excessive friendliness, apparent panhandling, and false recognition. I empathized with the stranger sitting near a loud and oblivious chip-eater and recognized the awkward avoidance of a solicitation for money. Splitting this play into three meant that there was little time for more than an unfriendly stranger turning sympathetic or the revelation that a supposed panhandler was trying to give money away, meaning that the plots and characters stayed simple. “Strangers,” which won “Best Production” at the end of the festival, used sound and the same faded looking bus sign to create three distinct and lonely settings.

4. “Sonia and the Birds”

The inherent originality and absurdity of the play’s premise garnered laughs, with two of the actors “transforming” into birds so that one waddled like a penguin while gazing fixedly ahead and the other hunched over and delivered comically human-sounding tweets. The characters often felt like caricatures—eccentricity defined the Birdkeeper and, for the most part, boorish behavior defined the men who were transformed. Their energetic interactions entertained and drew laughs from the audience. Ultimately, though, I was unsure whether the ending, in which the patriarchy collapsed because all men had transformed into birds, was meant to be cautionary or idealistic.

3. “In Deep Shtick”

The female doctor’s fluffy black mustache and the hockey stick protruding from the nonchalant patient’s stomach foreshadowed the nonsensical hilarity of the rest of “In Deep Shtick.” The play’s continual stream of gags, like a doctor’s white coat becoming increasingly bloodier and asking if the patient’s stomach pain was a “gut feeling,” consistently provoked laughs from the audience. Its overall comedic and light-hearted tone contrasted with the more serious and emotional plays directly before and after it. The play felt propelled, never losing its energy, and the characters and unfolding events seemed to constantly be in motion.

2. “Tinder is the Night”

The innuendo and coincidences in “Night” engaged the audience and balanced out the main character’s emotional struggle with coming out as a lesbian to her devoutly Catholic parents. Unexpected turns like Samuel interning at Mr. Nelson’s company and the innuendo stemming from a discussion about “praying” seemed perfectly set up to create a hilariously ridiculous combination of events. Though these entertained, Bailey’s conflict with her girlfriend lent a deeper emotional weight to the play.

1. “Missed Communications”

Starting out with the metallic, screeching cacophony of a car crash, the play’s first quiet moments made me wonder about the stories of the slumped man and put-together woman sitting next to him. “Missed Communications” effectively used the small stage to create the starkly contrasting worlds of the happy young girl and the man sitting alone in a car crash. The audience gasped as the hopelessness of the man’s situation became clearer, and audibly reacted to the reveals of the man being on his way to his neglected daughter’s wedding. “Missed Communications,” which invested me in the man’s well-being and his relationship with his daughter through his conversations with Siri and the little girl, won “Best Play” in the festival.

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