On stage at the AMT: reviewing Williams’ year in student theatre

New Works

In conjunction with the 100th anniversary of Cap and Bells, three of the organization’s student directors staged works-in-progress for New Works, a Cap and Bells performance showcasing new student-written works. On Thursday, September 24, in the newly renovated Goodrich Student Center, Rob Seitelman ’01, Michael Cooper ’01 and Melissa Scuereb ’01 staged You’ve Gotta Grow up Sometime and Phaedra. The one-act You Gotta Grow up Sometime,written by Seitelman, mixes humor and romance to relate the story of Rollie (Max Weinstein ’00), a writer, who pines over his first love Emily (Jessica Richman ’01). The musical Phaedra, scored and directed by Cooper and Scuereb, revolves around Queen Phaedra (Emmy Lou Diaz ’01), who falls in love with her stepson, the Prince (Justin Deichmann ’01). Consisting entirely of song, the musical featured strong performances by Diaz and Hilary Ley ’01 as Camille, the queen’s maid.

Tit Tales

Tit Tales, a body politics cabaret written by Marjorie Duffield ’85 and composed by Greg Pliska ’84, played at the AMT DownStage January 8-9. Although it was advertised with the slogan “These breasts can kill,” the hour-long musical comedy lacked much crassness, much raging feminism and much that could not be appreciated by audience members of both sexes. With total honesty the cabaret’s vignettes addressed subjects ranging from breast implants to mammograms to pornography. Staring Amie Bermowitz, Ali Hayden, Sheri Sanders and skillfully directed by Lori Steinburg, Tit Tales had the audience nervously giggling at first, but by the cabaret’s end the audience was laughing uproariously. Throughout Tit Tales, the dialogue and lyrics were pointedly witty. Duffield and Pliska masterfully addressed feelings and issues, which, while they are extremely pertinent to women, rarely are discussed with much openness on stage. Such a frank presentation of mammary issues was refreshing because often, whether admittedly or not, they can be defining issues for women. As one song discreetly pointed out, it is the “…clothes that make the man, but breasts that make a woman.” Also quite witty was Sander’s Freudian performance of a song entitled “Breast Envy.” Throughout, Christine van Kipnis’ traditional cabaret-type choreography complemented the musical’s humor

Crimes of the Heart

Cap and Bells presented Beth Henley’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play “Crimes of the Heart” January 24 through 26 in Currier Ballroom. Directed by Christina Ronai ’00, the play chronicles the lives of three sisters as they struggle with the deaths of relatives and with personal crises involving husbands and would-be lovers. As the sisters attempt to untangle the webs of their hopes, loves, hates and smashed realities, they find solace in new, more honest relationships with each other. The play contains numerous emotional shifts that too often the actors struggled to execute well. A character would flutter from emotion to emotion without really hitting any of them. At times, the actors would revert to one emotional state with little regard for what was going on around him or her. In some cases this disregard and insularity gave way to a farce-like effect that did not seem intentional.

Terminal Hip

In his program notes for Mac Wellman’s challenging one-man show Terminal Hip, Adam Bloom ’99, who both directed and acted in the piece, quoted Spencer Tracy, who said that all you have to do to be an actor is “say your lines and not bump into the furniture.” In response, Bloom wrote, “The more I study, the more I learn, the more time I spend on stage, the more I begin to think that Spencer Tracy was probably right.” It’s a pointed observation from an actor able to deliver the jumbled mass of words that comprises Terminal Hip. And yet, without Bloom’s absolutely engaging charisma on stage, the chaotic dialogue would have been lost on its audience. Hanging upside down from the furniture on the set and wearing a foam suit, Bloom’s staging proved an equal match to the absurdity of Wellman’s play. Ultimately it was Bloom’s performance – at times comical and at times desperate – that connected with the audience. This was evidenced in that the largest response Bloom elicited from his audience all night occurred after he burst into a rendition of Abbott and Costello’s classic “Who’s on First Routine” routine. At that moment, it was not Wellman entertaining the audience. It was all Bloom. Terminal Hip was performed March 12 and 13 on the AMT DownStage.

Glengarry Glen Ross

David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross is a portrayal of the cutthroat competition that exists in the world of sales. Directed by Michael Izquierdo ’00, the play starred Jason Greenberg ’01 as Richard Roma and Craig DiFolco ’99 as Shelly Levene. Izquierdo’s production of Glengarry was, on the whole, very well executed. The set was simple yet effective, allowing the audience to concentrate on the characters and dialogue, which are the strong suits of Mamet’s play, and not be distracted by a highly decorated stage. Most of the performances in Glenglarry were superb. Jason Greenberg’s performance of Roma, the ultra-slick salesman, capably embodied the character’s duality. At the same time that he displayed a potentially conniving and untrustworthy side, Greenberg was smoothly persuasive, so much so that he was nearly sympathetic. DiFolco was also excellent as Levene, the aging salesman.

Laughter on the 23rd Floor

Neil Simon’s semi-autobiographical Laughter on the 23rd Floor had its audiences laughing out loud at the Adams Memorial Theatre DownStage. A Cap and Bells production directed by Jason Greenberg ’01, Laughter relates the story of a group of comedy writers whose popular television variety show is facing problems because its studio is more interested in the bottom line than in humor. The narrator of the play represents Simon. All of the other characters are caricatures of his real-life colleagues from the Sid Caesar Show, including the comic geniuses Woody Allen and Mel Brooks. Simon is at his comic best here; gag follows gag without giving the audience a moment between laughs. The cast not only succeeded in portraying the vivid personalities of Simon’s characters, but the cast was also highly effective in maximizing the hilarity of each joke or gag, as everyone had nearly impeccable comic timing.

Two Chairs and a Box

Consisting of six short vignettes, Two Chairs and a Box, a Cap and Bells production, was aptly named. Little more than two chairs and a box were ever on the stage; there was the occasional screen, but the landscape remained stark throughout the performance with the entire set, save the chairs, painted black. The open set freed the pieces, allowing both the actors and directors the maximum space in which to work. To some degree, space defined the impact of each of the vignettes. One of the highlights of the piece was the performance of “Reality Strikes Again,” written and directed by Eric Powers ’02. The piece unravels an absurd relationship between two men while creating ample opportunities for laughter. Both Andrew Deichman ’01 and Jason Greenberg ’01 gave over-the-top performances that, although often grotesque with exaggerated British accents and gestures, fit with the overall sentiment of the play and at most times served as an excellent medium for the hilarity.

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