For a performance entitled “Fresh Meat,” I wasn’t really expecting such a dramatic opening, featuring a family that discovers that their seventeen-year-old son is terminally ill and is going to die soon. It was kind of intense.
Written by freshmen Jesse Schreck ’14 and Ethan Karetsky ’14, “Fresh Meat” consists of three one-act plays. “Stages” and “Writer’s block,” both written by Schreck, were directed by Karetsky; Schreck took on the third one-act, written by Karetsky, “Add as Friend (version 8.1).”
Though “Stages,” was slightly morbid, and the actors totally overdid it, the pitch-black setting of Nick Chapel was perfect for the plot. They kept it simple: white sofas, black everything else. This, along with superb, forceful lighting, created a poignant environment, an effective contrast with the austere backdrop.
“Add as a friend,” was, let’s just say, “interestingly” structured. It didn’t really involve much acting, if any. The act translated the dilemmas of a group of six friends who are constantly being torn apart and misrepresented by technology; most scenes involved two people IMing each other. As the plot developed — i.e., as texts were exchanged by the cast — everyone on stage pretty much just relayed the messages aloud.
That was their script: texts.
The conflict: Alli (Calista Small ’14) is peer-pressured by her friend Jane (Sophia Chen ’14) to update her relationship status on Facebook to “In a Relationship.”
Of course, like the rest of us freshmen in our late teens, the entire cast of “Fresh Meat” is eager to know the juicy details of Alli and Jordans’ (Leland Whitehouse ’14) secret love affair. Jordan, the school’s hottie, had sex with Alli, and he accidently tells the school gossip king (Doug, Chris Bakes ’14) about it. This, clearly, makes Charlotte (Alli’s heart-broken, crazy-jealous-for-no-reason best friend) record a drunk angry Facebook video. Because what’s a good fight without a Facebook battlefield?
When Alli discovers the news is out, things get ugly — way worse than the defriending kind of ugly.
“Add as Friend” dragged on for too long, but the inaccuracy of the experiences portrayed was decidedly entertaining. The play conveyed the now-obsolete sense of general social awkwardness, because of the already cliched excessive use of technology.
The last act was hands-down the most entertaining of the three. In a show-off of metafiction, a cast of four acted out a play within a play. “Writer’s Block” featured an old couple: the husband (Frank, Connor Lounsbury ’14) desperately attempts to write a book; the wife (Meryl, Chandler Rosenthal ’14) hopelessly voices the distress of unattained motherhood and her latent desire to bear a child even though she’s in her sixties.
As the old couple chalked out the story on the first layer of fiction, proxies Frank (Ryan Bowers ’14) and Meryl (Becca Edelman ’14) personified the second layer, or metafiction, as the writers foresaw it. They write, they erase, they rewrite and they fight — it sort of reminded me of an improv comedy show.
The “real” Meryl (Rosenthal) acted splendidly. She was dramatic and had a powerful voice; yet, at the same time, she managed to hit the right lows.
Even though I would prefer to watch something livelier, something that radiates energy and engages with the audience, “Fresh Meat” was a well-done first effort put together with a medium-rare cast.