“I need to completely apply myself to be a good fit for this school,” says Reginald on his first day of preschool at The Exceptional Childhood Center. Thus begins Dylan Shifrin’s ’20 first of three one-act plays, all of which profoundly explore the themes of self-worth, loneliness and the ways in which we cope with the expectations of life.
The three one-act plays — entitled “The Exceptional Childhood Center,” “Gwedolyn” and “Replay” — are performed under the title “You Are Enough,” an honest, perfectly fitting title which simplifies the various complexities that characterize the show. Many critics, writers and theater personnel have claimed that only the genre of drama can deliver truly pertinent cultural and political statements. Yet, I laud the comedy and acknowledge that it takes substantial skill and understanding to write humor, and, with this acknowledgement, I applaud Shifrin’s fantastic work. Without losing the underlying seriousness of the play, Shifrin captivates the audience with perfectly timed witticisms, which range from explicit jokes and puns to physical movements and well-placed staging.
I must also, then, praise director Danny Smooke ’18, who took a brilliant script and brought the words to life. She honed the best performances from her actors and added a comedic flare that brought the show to life. I am not sure how explicitly the script calls for it, but the image of Carlos Guanche’s ’20 face covered with shaving cream, looking desperately at his younger brother Aiden brings me joy post facto.
I was most impressed by the thread that tied the three plays together. Although separated by plot and style, the theme of great, unreachable expectations underlies the entire performance, manifesting in a darker, more explicit form with each passing play. It all culminates with an intense and existential conclusion to “Replay.”
Though the show was comprised of three distinct plays, a few actors actors performed in each of them, adapting brilliantly to each role. Adrianne Owings ’20 first embodied the overzealous 4-year-old Susan, whose only desire was to learn at all times. Then she took on the role of Gwendolyn, the romantic interest and literal cactus whose overbearing tendencies cause great difficult for Jordan, her boyfriend, who works for the third-largest backscratcher company in the nation. Lastly, Owings plays Erin, a chemistry student who suffers from hyperthymesia — a neurological disorder that leads people to remember much more than the average person — and who wants to chemically remove the traumatic memories which perennially haunt her. Through each of these three roles, Owings displays her wide range.
Owings was only one of three actors to pull off such a feat. Guanche and Cassandra Hsiao ’21 also spent much of the show on stage, again inhabiting three distinct, hysterical and moving characters. Hsiao was able to transform from a socially challenged mechanical office employee to a pink-loving, caring and extroverted roommate in the span of a single intermission. Guanche went from a fraternity-esque, overbearing, wingman-aspiring best friend to an ambitious, business-oriented boyfriend in the same amount of time. It was a show that demanded flexible acting, and the actors embraced different, almost conflicting roles with open arms.
At the risk of sounding pedantic, I thought the only problem with the show was the occasional sound malfunction. Yet the actors responded well to such minor issues, refusing to let discordant breaks thwart their comedic tempo.
The show unfortunately closes on Friday and does not include a Friday matinee — meaning that the last chance to see this moving show is tonight at 8 p.m. in the Davenport Pierson Auditorium. For every member of the Yale community who wants to see young people address their feelings of doubt, self-loathing and displacement, I encourage you to be at “You Are Enough” tonight. You will definitely get to laugh even as you contemplate your coping mechanisms.
Nick Tabio | firstname.lastname@example.org