One of the highlights of going to school here is feeling the greatness that surrounds you. This weekend, the Dramat’s Playwriting Festival offers a glimpse of six playwrights epitomizing such greatness.
The Festival is meant to showcase original works of Yale students through a series of performances or staged readings. The plays that are showcased were chosen by a committee of the Dramat plus the producer of the festival, who this year is Marisa Alford ’05. The director and casts have only two weeks to work together before the Festival performances, which utilize costumes, props, sets and all the mainstays of an ordinary theatre production.
Of the six productions in the Festival this year, I was able to preview three performances. The impressive range of subject matter and style speaks volumes about the abilities of the cast and crew to create the illusory visions of talented writers. The Festival seems to offer something for anyone, whether your interest lies in romantic comedy or philosophical inquiry.
“When it Rains,” a play written by Julie Whitesell ’05 and directed by Chloe Bass ’06, is an entertaining look at one woman’s journey to discover herself as well as love in an insecure world. Though at first appearing to be a typical romantic comedy — complete with a cheesy Mariah Carey soundtrack — the show quickly demonstrates a wit and sarcasm that overcomes stereotype. Maria (Gia Marotta ’06), a 30-year–old woman who is the protagonist of the story, is an engaging and sardonic commentator on the state of her own romantic life. Armed with gay sidekick George (Jamie Kirchick ’06), Maria is determined to break her unlucky streak with men and meet Mr. Right. Marotta’s biggest mistakes are her most amusing efforts; her run in with old college boyfriend Jason, played by Stefano Theodoli ’07, is a believable one-night-stand experience, complete with drunk-dialing and walk of shame. Marotta’s energy suffuses the character, whether she is changing into a skimpy outfit or bemoaning her coffee shop employment. In the end, “When it Rains,” it indeed pours, both heart and soul into this well-written and -acted piece.
“Voices of Juarez,” written by Kristen Pring–Mill ’05 and directed by Andrew Sandberg ’05, is an account of the women murdered in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, and one woman’s desire for justice. Colette Gunn-Gruffy ’05 plays the protagonist of the show, a young woman raped and murdered literally and figuratively by the system which promised her the world. In a passionate portrayal of one woman’s struggle to reveal the truth, Gunn-Gruffy is the ghost of one of the nearly 400 victims of a sadistic killer preying on the young women of Juarez. In the flashbacks that tell the story, she inhabits the characters of a sleazy maquiladora manager, an abusive father, a naively pious mother, and the murderer himself. With little other than a change of costume Gunn-Gruffy manages to transform herself from one character to another. In the grainy lights of the show, the painful realizations of a victimized populous are nonetheless clear. The harrowing script, often written in rhyme, is a powerful piece that focuses mainly on the question of justice. Gunn-Gruffy’s moving answer to this question is summed up in her last tormented scream.
“An Ape and an Audience,” written by Josh Tarsky ’04 and directed by Christopher Grobe ’05, is a quirky play that deals with the notion of suspending disbelief. Comparing religion and theater as the two arenas in which people are willing submit to such subversion of reality, the narrator takes the audience on an exercise — or perhaps exorcism — of that reality. In three subsequent scenes portrayed in different styles of theatre, the characters wrestle with the mundane, the existential and the absurdist within. David Chernicoff ’07, Jennifer Thompson ’04 and Dara Young ’07 confront their different characters with sharp wit. One gets the feeling that if these three were in any way “Waiting for Godot” to enlighten their realities, they would do so with automatic weapons and demand answers. By mocking author, audience and actors, the play ultimately proves once again what we’d suspected all along: all the world is a stage.
For a diverse look at what just might be the future of dramatic work, the Dramat’s Playwriting Festival is a guaranteed success.
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