Attack of the Killler Shorts!

One Act Play Festival Proves Western's TheatreTalent

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Attack of the Killer Shorts

A sexually awkward Adam and Eve, a senile Cinderella and a depressed Timbit were only some of the eccentric characters that took over “Attack of the Killer Shorts” last Thursday and Friday at The Wave.

The sixth annual Purple Shorts One Act Play Festival showcased seven original plays, each written, directed and performed by students. Two nights of witty scripts and outrageous characters revealed the hidden talent at Western.

The first night was filled to capacity and featured four plays, beginning with “The Fire Prince,” written and directed by Erin Scholz. The piece was about a missing star chef and featured a series of interviews with a range of fictive characters including an Eastern European chef, an Aussie adventurer and an overzealous stalker ex-girlfriend. With a minimal set, the focus was placed on the expressive host and the interviewee in true mockumentary style.

From the Top,” written and directed by Mike Burke, featured standout performances. In the mini-production, a washed-out, melodramatic community director struggles to revamp Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet with a group of stubborn actors. Tito Morales, who played Stan/Romeo, generated non-stop laughter with his devilish facial contortions and neurotic, cracking voice as he destroyed Romeo’s romantic lines. Morales, paired with the snobbish Cindy/Juliet (Ashley Wallis), only strengthened their humourous dynamic.

Every character, from the nervous Friar Laurence to the irritating nurse, was well cast, each delivering a consistant performance throughout the play. It was apparent the actors understood vital dramatic elements including awareness of the stage space, vocal projection, timing and proper blocking.

The audience returned after the intermission to see “Touch,” by Kathlene Campbell-Conlon. The piece focused on a series of monologues by characters in relationships that had cheated on one another. While it was an unexpected change from comedy to drama, the piece still managed to evoke a slew of emotions with its layered characters and intimate moments.

The last play of the night, “To Etch-a-Sketch,” stole the show, as the audience teared with laughter. Written and directed by Dave Weaver, “To Etch-a-Sketch” was a comedy sketch performed by five students who combined slapstick humour with smart mini-storylines and events.

Along the same vein as Whose Line is It Anyway?, these future comedians clearly understood traditional improv techniques by drawing on simple items or routine activities to make them funny. A whiny Timbit, a Martha Stewart-like star who cooks her cat after her shoot, a God who creates the world through an etch-a-sketch and idiot robbers with a soft spot for rubber duckies were only some of the characters generated unconventional comedy.

While there were noticeably less people than the first night, the second night kicked off with “Twicken’s Book” by Erin Walker, an existential play with pain-ridden characters. Diverse characters were sprawled throughout the act, including a bitter old man, a mariachi band and an optometrist in love with a mime.

Gabriella” by Elianne Escobal relayed Cinderella’s stepsister’s account of the fairytale and made the classic Cinderella look like a crazy Barbie doll that speaks to mice and claims her fairy godmother changed her dress. Christine Elizabeth McIntee, who played Cinderella, perfected her eye rolling and wannabe princess attitude while the stepsister, Gabriella (Fiona Rodrigues), addressed the audience.

By relating back to the familiar events of the Cinderella story, the audience recognized the stepsister’s version of the story and found humour in its absurdities.

The best was definitely saved for last with “Adam & Steve,” written and directed by Kevin Schoenfeld, who also played Adam. As one of the more original acts in the festival, the play dismantled conservative notions of heterosexual sex by flashbacking to the Creation Story.

Two couples " Adam and Steve, and Maddie and Eve " yearn to have children of their own until the Serpent from the Tree of Knowledge tells them the secret of how to make a baby. What follows is a set of awkward moments and conversations between the couples that crescendos into delightfully awkward sex/post-sex scenes onstage.

The actors should be commended for their realistic portrayal of a gay/lesbian couple. Andrew McCubbin’s (Steve) overt displays of affection worked well with Schoenfeld’s lankishness and shifty eye movements. Lauren Avinoam’s (Maddie) flaring confidence meshed with with Heather Miles’ (Eve) sassiness. With a strong script, unabashed actors and an appealing set, there was never a dull moment in “Adam & Steve.”

With only minor microphone problems and a few slow transitions, this year’s Purple Shorts will be difficult to top.

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