A mixed review for SCU Presents’ Fall One-Act Festival
October 26, 2017
Santa Clara’s Department of Theatre and Dance left audiences both cringing and laughing during the 2017 Fall One-Act Festival, which took place from Oct. 21-22.
The featured plays included “Three More Sleepless Nights,” written by Caryl Churchill and directed by junior Lee Harrold, and “Wanda’s Visit,” written by Christopher Durang and directed by senior Hunter Donovan.
“Three More Sleepless Nights”
With “Three More Sleepless Nights,” Lee Harrold set out to explore how we approach blame and responsibility for our own actions and the actions of others. In a note included in the playbill, Harrold asks the audience, “What would you admit responsibility for?”
While his imagined purpose is a profound and interesting concept, the execution of that concept leaves much to be desired.
Less than five minutes into the play, I was thrown off by the use of British English vernacular (i.e.“row” as in “argument,” “pissed” as in “drunk,” etc.)—even though the actors maintained American accents.
First-year Rita Kelly, playing Margaret—an insecure, longtime housewife trying to find purpose through a new career path—made an initial attempt at an accent, but her voice eventually devolved into her natural Southern drawl rather than the Cockney accent her vocabulary required.
The acting in general was bland and unconvincing, causing the performance to feel reminiscent of a class skit rather than a well-rehearsed play. A feeling of noncommittal uneasiness lingered in the air as the actors moved across the stage and under the sheets, milking the comedic moments for far too long and downplaying the playwright’s intended dramatic moments.
The play’s set was its primary redeeming quality, utilizing a stage of just a bed, a table and a mirror to its full potential. The story was told through three vignettes of couples in bed working through their troubled lives. By using an actual bedside lamp rather than relying on just the overhead lighting, the actors were able to physically control the mood of their scene by flicking the switch.
“Three More Sleepless Nights” was a great idea held back by poor execution. Harrold made an attempt at touching something profound, but was unable to do so.
In her directorial debut, Hunter Donovan takes the audience on a whirlwind journey when a normal New England couple, Jim and Marsha, are visited by Jim’s high school girlfriend, Wanda.
In an interview, Donovan discussed her selection of the piece.
“There is a joke on every page,” she said. “It kind of hits you over the head, which is what I wanted.”
Leading that comedic conquest is senior Annick Gerard playing Wanda, the namesake of the play and the driving plot force. Wanda barges into Jim and Marsha’s life, played by junior Vikram Naidu and first-year Lucy Gilbert, respectively. Wanda constantly stuns and horrifies with her life tales since she and Jim split up.
Her antics keep the audience on their toes, completely unable to guess just what she’ll do next. Gerard relished in the audience laughs while maintaining character as she swung from one emotional high to another.
One minute she was sobbing and proclaiming her profound unhappiness, and the next she was laughing hysterically and telling Jim how much she loved Marsha’s sense of humor. Gerard’s Wanda truly carried the show and kept me laughing and on the edge of my seat from the moment she set foot on stage.
Wanda’s visit pushes Jim and Marsha to reevaluate their lives, their happiness and their marriage. Though the play is a comedy, the audience is invited to find something behind the humor—how we can learn and grow from the chaotic moments we experience. Wanda is the wild card in all our lives that forces us to, as she puts it, “roll with the punches.”
Contact Ethan Beberness at email@example.com or call (408) 554-4852.