At some time or another, we’ve all experienced it. It’s that sudden, all-encompassing feeling of irritation that compels you to turn to that annoying person next to you — you know, the one gabbing on their cellphone in the middle of the best scene in the movie — and hit them over the head. What part of “turn off your cell phone” didn’t they understand?
But no such compulsions seize the audience members of the Yale Cabaret’s “Unwrap Your Candy.” Why? The Cabaret’s latest production, an hourlong sequence of three short plays written by Doug Wright and directed by Jacob Knoll, opens with a loudspeaker warning against any noisy shenanigans — mid-performance phone conversations are, of course, forbidden. Oh, and if you’re planning on eating any candy — “unwrap it now.”This humorous admonition, complete with an ear-piercing cacophony of ringing noises, sets the tone for an exquisitely entertaining performance.
The three separate storylines, unrelated to each other in content but tied together by a strong infusion of directed energy, alternate between hilarious and haunting. The viewer, consequently, is torn between a myriad of conflicting emotions, unsure whether it would be more appropriate to burst into laughter or tears. The emotional confusion, which often runs the risk of overwhelming the audience, only heightens the experience in this case. Wright cleverly uses emotion to highlight important messages that lurk behind the production’s more humorous facade.
In the first play, a husband (Jordan Mahome) and wife (Phyllis Johnson) speak directly to the audience about their deceased son. The son, a music prodigy obsessed with perfection, is ultimately the victim of a Kafka-esque demise. The second play focuses on an entirely different theme. It follows a realtor (Mozhan Navabi) tasked with selling a house whose former occupants left under unusual circumstances. The third and final play of the production investigates the story of a pregnant woman — played, in an unusual casting twist, by actor Jordan Mahome — who develops a bizarrely strong attachment to her unborn fetus (David Nugent). Somewhere between poignant realism and whimsical fantasy, each of the three plays is further enhanced by a “Sixth Sense”-like surprise ending.
The goosebump-inducing plotlines are further strengthened by the ensemble’s consistently glittering performances, the most noteworthy of which is Mozhan Navabi’s portrayal of the neurotic realtor. Fidgety body movement and peals of nervous laughter combine to give her character a chilling aura, drawing the audience into her paranoia. The other performances are no less impressive. In fact, director Knoll was lucky to have found such an amazing group of actors. The show possesses an inherent danger in that each actor must play several roles. But the cast members overcame this challenge with little, if any, trouble, transitioning smoothly from one role to the next.
Despite a spartan set — five white chairs are the only pieces adorning the stage — the Cabaret space is used amazingly well. Knoll’s blocking, in addition to the actors’ skillful use of pantomime, creates the illusion of a fully realized environment.
With such thrilling and imaginative entertainment only a few steps away, there is no excuse for missing “Unwrap Your Candy” at the Yale Cabaret this weekend. But one word of advice: before unwittingly becoming an integral part of the evening’s entertainment, turn off your cell phone.
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