Review: Big acting in little rehearsal time

Junior theatre major Colin Stephens and freshman theatre major Rachel Miller perform the Gehenna Gethsemane scene in “From the Ground Up” Friday evening in Moulton Hall. Photo by Dev Mehta

With only about a month of rehearsal time, most of the student-written, directed and produced one-act plays in “From the Ground Up” last Friday and Saturday night successfully elicited laughs from their audiences. Others, unfortunately, fell a little over their heads.

The five plays, presented by Coalition of Artistic Students in Theatre (C.A.S.T.), were free to the public and put on in Moulton Hall. Ranging from a dramatic piece about the beginning of a sexual relationship to a theatrical version of an episode of “Scooby Doo,” each play brought something unique to the stage.

The first play, “Gehenna Gethsemane,” written by senior theatre major Harrison Givens and directed by sophomore theatre major Cristian Guerrero, was easily the most complex and confusing of the five. It began with a young woman, freshman theatre major Rachel Miller, rambling like a madwoman about a time of innocence lost. She was then joined by junior theatre major Colin Stephens, her apparent former lover. The two, stuck in a purgatory of sorts, violently discussed their tempestuous relationship, speaking poetically, but not all that clearly about happier times together gone by. While the two were successful in finding the humor in the words and coming across as mentally unstable, the lack of context made it difficult to fully appreciate.

Junior theatre major Ashlei Foushee wrote and directed the second play, “Scooby Doo: The Vampire Bites Back,” an amusing throwback to a childhood favorite TV show mixed in with some grown-up humor. Though not exactly groundbreaking theatre, this was one of the funniest plays of the bunch, thanks to sexually-charged quips about Fred (freshman theatre major Will Coile) and Daphne (freshman theatre major Brandi Reinhard) and an abundance of marijuana jokes. Sophomore theatre and television and broadcast journalism double major Jake Thompson and freshman theatre major David Patty kept the audience chuckling for most of the play, thanks to their spot-on impressions of Shaggy and Scooby, respectively, and their unrelenting cravings for hash brownies.

“Anyone Else,” Givens’ second play in the batch, was much easier to understand and more relatable to a college audience. Directed by junior theatre major Sam Forrest, sophomore theatre majors Isabelle Grimm and Lucas Gust played two young adults on the cusp of a sexual relationship. However, the two defied traditional gender roles, with Grimm’s character more eager to enter into something purely physical and Gust’s character a concerned gentleman worried about the responsibilities that complicate the idea of “no strings attached.”

In “The Rules Made Simple” written by senior theatre and screenwriting major Matt Bokuniewicz and directed by sophomore theatre major Sophe Friedman, sophomore theatre majors Donathan Walters and Ryan Stakland played an unusual creative duo. Stakland’s character was a writer, trying to pen the rule book to life, and Walters played the singer he used to draw inspiration. Walters’ character disagreed with the way Stakland’s character writes his rules, and a violent dispute between the two ensued. Though somewhat lengthy, the relationship between muse and author was well-developed and unusual enough to retain focus.

The final play was junior theatre major Zachary Weed’s “Waiting for Pornot,” an absurdist-reminiscent piece also performed at the 24-Hour Play Festival earlier in the semester. Directed by junior theatre major Sierra Stenzel, the play introduced six college-aged students who spontaneously decided to partake in an orgy. As they waited for the last member of their group to arrive, interpersonal conflicts among the group came to light, most amusingly between two best friends, played by Friedman and junior theatre major LeeAnn Dowd. Dowd’s character hilariously revealed that she’s a racist and member of the Women’s Ku Klux Klan, much to her socially conscious friend’s horror. The play ended on a tongue-in-cheek note as the orgy started and Dowd revealed her character’s “white power” tramp stamp.

For a free show with only a little rehearsal time, “From the Ground Up” showcased a great deal of talent and was a great way to show support for one of Chapman’s lesser-known theatre programs.

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