For the past two years, Two Chairs and a Box has given student playwrights, directors, techies, and actors the opportunity to develop their talents in a casual, creative way. Limited in use of props and length of production, directors and actors are forced to cram a play’s worth of expression, emotion, and plot into a few minutes. This year’s result, on the whole, was a solid, enjoyable presentation.
Two Chairs was a patchwork of six theatre pieces, each with a different director and group of actors. The show felt like six bite-sized pieces of candy that were fed to the audience in rapid-fire succession.
The first piece, “Berkeley,” was a humorous, bantering glimpse at adolescent lust and boredom, written and directed by Mayur Deshmukh ’01. Chris Durlacher ’03 nicely played the part of a whiny and lonely introspect, the type who spends hours planning what he’ll say the next time he breaks down and calls his ex-girlfriend. Stu Warshawer ’03 was believable and sharp as Durlacher’s impatient roommate, and Torie Gorges, as Angela, visited them (ostensibly to get a condom) and stuck around to dispense advise and reject Warshawer’s advances. In all, it covered old ground but in a manner that was enjoyable and funny. It could be argued, however, that Desmukh broke with the founding philosophy of the event; with two chairs, two boxes, a mattress, a phone, radio, and various littered clothing, it was a far cry from a spare set.
The next piece, “Odds are On,” was also written and directed by a student, first-year Josh Ain. In the vein of a classic ’20’s mobster plot, Ain weaved a web of crime, mistrust and high stakes. Nick Brandt ’02 was impressive in his portrayal of a gambler drinking himself – quite heavily – into debt. Equally convincing were Eric Katerman ’02, in the role of a guilt-laden old friend, and Kristen LeChevet ’02 as his glamorous partner. Karen Lichtman ’02 was awkwardly placed as the hit-man, though she was steady in her delivery. Ain created a piece that was interesting and complex. The dialogue was chatty and intelligent, though the New York City dialect was a bit forced.
“The Problem,” written by A.R. Gurney, Jr. and directed by Becca Krass ’03, was arguably the most unique and best executed piece in the set. Chris Durlacher and Elizabeth Chase ’03 were fabulous in their portrayal of a professor and his “pregnant” wife.
The story starts with the wife, visibly quite pregnant, having to stick her belly in her husbands face in order for him to quit his studies enough to notice her condition. From there, they both create a wobbling tower of confessions and explanations, culminating, hilariously, in Chase’s declaration “The father is social injustice on a wide and social scale!” All in all, the story line was delightfully far-fetched, and was carried out with fantastic skill and chemistry by Durlacher and Chase.
After a short break, the production continued with “Date with a Stranger,” by Cherie Vogelstein. Directed by Iva Borisova ’02 and Jessica Bauman ’02, this piece was a funny, if frightening, glimpse at the short-lived imaginary relationship between the two most neurotically shallow people ever conceived. Eric Katerman and Jennifer Sawaya ’02 were uncannily adept at portraying the outlandish insecurities and faults of their characters, and the piece was successful in its exploration of schizophrenic, evaporative love.
“Billy Markham and the Devil” presented the most impressive memorization of the evening; this story, by Shel Silverstein, was delivered faultlessly as a monologue by Eric Powers ’02. For those whose knowledge of Silverstein is limited to “A Light in the Attic,” this story about a man who rolls dice with the devil is a racy surprise. Emily Thorson ’02 directed a tight performance, and Powers was impressive for his delivery and scope of memory.
The collection ended with “Tender Offer,” written by Wendy Wasserstein and directed by Andrew Schulte ’03, a pleasant, if trite, story of a busy dad and his ballerina daughter. Once again, Brandt delivered a solid and believable performance of a sympathetic father who uses too many corporate analogies when trying to relate to his daughter. D’Arcy Robb ’03 was also convincing in her portrayal of a pouty preadolescent.
Overall, the collection was a fun sampler of interesting scripts, great acting, and adept directing. Successes like this show that Two Chairs and a Box is becoming a popular venue for student creativity and talent.