One Act, One Theme

By the

March 15, 2001

More often than not, the most important and insightful things college students have to say involve relationships, be it with friends, boyfriends, girlfriends or lovers. So it’s not surprising that both pieces in this spring’s One Acts, a festival open to all of Georgetown’s budding playwrights, are primarily if not exclusively about relationships. It was these interactions, in a production with relatively subtle lighting and set design, that truly took center stage, putting a great deal of pressure on the quality of acting and the use of dialogue. The result was an evening that, while somewhat limited in content and tone (last year’s festival allowed for a much broader range of characters and subjects), presented a discourse that just about anyone at Georgetown can appreciate and enjoy.

The first one act, “Boy Meets Girl”, written by Drew Courtney (CAS ‘03) and directed by Caitlin Lowans (SFS ‘03) uses a very familiar narrative (hence the commonplace title) livened up with a comically refreshing tone. The second, “Walking on Eggshells”, written by Frank Salamone (CAS ‘01) and directed by Peter DeVincenzo (CAS ‘03), explores a more alternative relationship but places it in a very mainstream setting. What makes each piece distinct from the other are the areas in which each excel and the aspects in which each falls short.

Courtney transforms a typical “boy-meets-girl” story into a fast-flowing, comical and very self-conscious script that maintains the audience’s close attention with very few slips. The premise begins with a simple blind date. Greg Deehan (SFS ‘04) enters as Mark, a geekishly sweet guy who knows so little about women he has to bring his friend Terry, played by Matt Payne (CAS ‘01), along on the date with him. The two complement each other well, as Deehan plays a seemingly charming character with just enough nervousness and exaggeration to reveal why he can’t relate to women. He contrasts Payne, who portrays a cocky ladies man with sound confidence, securing a strong footing in his role.

Then in comes Rachel Borek (CAS ‘03) as Lauren, a girl so apprehensive she matches her blind date’s insecurity by bringing along her strong-willed sister Beth, played by Kat Cox (CAS ‘04). This duo’s interaction is less impressive then the former as Borek’s nervousness is so overwhelming that it drowns out the essence of her character. In contrast, Cox delivers an incredibly smooth and poised performance as a woman who knows what she wants and how to get it. And wouldn’t you know, she ends up wanting Terry, her cocky counterpart on the pseudo-double-blind date.

The plot moves along in a relatively predictable way, complete with a stereotypical drunk scene and lines like “I’m sick of being the nice guy.” But the wittiness of the dialogue, the incredibly natural conversations and the back-to-back jokes that are laugh-out-loud funny more than make up for the clich?d storyline. The addition of a fifth character/narrator (played by Sarah Tarver-Wahlquist [CAS ‘03]) further contributes to the smooth flow of the play. By addressing the audience directly throughout the act, she uses disclaimers and brief rationalizations to fill in the holes that time inconsistencies or flaws in the writing might have otherwise left. Unfortunately, her explanations leave little to the imagination of the audience; while the existence of a narrator ensures that Courtney’s intended message will reach his viewers, there’s no room left for individual interpretations. Accordingly, this piece lacks a certain weightiness. Nonetheless, it remains wildly entertaining and can boast a generally solid cast, artfully unforced direction and a magnetic, seemingly effortless dialogue.

In contrast, DeVincenzo’s production of “Walking on Eggshells” lacks the smoothness and ease of “Boy Meets Girl,” but finds greater success in addressing a more powerful issue, homosexuality. It centers around Josh, played by Bryan J. Cracchiolo (CAS ‘03), a typical Georgetown-esque student whose friends, the clumsy but charming Cindy (Rebecca Ende [CAS ‘03]) and the predictable but likeable Mike (Dan Buell [CAS ‘03]) seem about as typical as he is. All is well until Doug (Brian A. Soja [CAS ‘03]) comes into the picture.

Soja convincingly portrays this indisputably “un-masculine” character with a certain confidence that leaves Doug’s homosexuality apparent while not overt. His actions soon lead Josh to reconsider his own sexuality, a reevaluation which quickly begins to effect his relationship with Cindy and Mike. Josh’s struggle seems paralleled by Cindy’s simultaneous effort to come to terms with her sexuality as a woman. And all the while, Salamone manages to artfully compare the complexities of both situations to the frailty of an egg, that can crack under even the slightest bit of pressure. The series of events and dialogue that follow raise important issues of acceptance, friendship and honesty that gracefully contribute to the successful communication of the piece’s very important message.

But at moments, the performances struggle and the story lags. Due to a more complex plot idea, there’s an excessive number of scene changes that tend to break the smooth flow of events and detach the audience from the players on stage. In addition, some of the characters seem slightly inaccessible. Buell and Soja deliver solid performances, but Ende doesn’t seem comfortable until half way through the performance. The role of Josh is also somewhat shaky, as Cracchiolo attempts to portray a perfectly average, confident college student whose life turns upside-down during the course of a single day; the audience is forced to struggle to understand a character that doesn’t even understand himself.

The issues at hand certainly leave no easy task for DiVincenzo and his cast, who tackled the problems relatively well; however one act seems limiting for characters of such depth and a message of such importance. Even so, the piece manages to keep the audience’s interest with an intriguing subject matter and characters that are all-too-familiar at Georgetown. Overall, this second One Act succeeds as it unabashedly addresses a number of issues that fall close to home for any student on this campus, gay or straight. In combination with the first piece, whose incredibly comical portrayal of a familiar scene vitalizes the crowd, the One Act festival succeeds in delivering two entertaining and very accessible performances.

The One Act festival will be in Poulton Hall on Mar. 15-17 and 22-24. All performances begin at 8:00 p.m. and cost $4.

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