’The Spotlight’ is bright, but still lacks focus

When a spotlight shines in theater, it sheds light on a single image and leaves the rest in darkness. True to its name, “The Spotlight,” a collection of one-minute performances presented this past Friday night at the CenterStage in the ’62 Center for Theatre and Dance, highlighted the unique capacities of its performers, but left some audience members in the dark.

Once a semester, WilliamsTheatre invites all interested actors to perform for an audience in “The Spotlight,” with the only constraint the one-minute time limit. By design, “The Spotlight” gives students unlimited creative control over what they decide to perform and challenges them to maximize their time for greatest impact in what is known as “nano-performance.” While there was certainly a lot of potential, the final production was a jumbled mosaic that, while at times successful in the miniature, did not pack the theatrical punch I had hoped for.

Performances varied widely, including slam poetry, acoustic guitar, famous monologues and Irish dance. The show opened with a loud car horn and the entrance of Faraidoon Nayebkhill ’10, who acted as a tongue-in-cheek stern police officer who set the ground rules.

At “The Spotlight,” participants don’t know the order in which they will perform and have to report to the stage as soon as their name is called. An onstage traffic light directed the constant entry and exit of actors, ensuring an efficient use of stage space for upwards of 35 different acts. From there it was up to the performers to carry out whatever type of performance they chose.

One particularly memorable and hilarious act was performed by Matthew Neuber ’08, who assumed his character from the very second his name was called, telling the police officer he was there to give a Dating 101 seminar. Ben Rudick ’08 entered the spotlight armed with his monstrous camera and used his minute to capture a silly group shot of the audience members.

More traditionally, Tomomi Kikuchi ’11 delivered a powerful monologue about the power of words, while leather-clad Ryan Dunfee ’09 gave a serious recitation with the lilt of poetry and the urgency of drama. Semira Menghes ’11 rolled around the stage in a convincingly bleary-eyed monologue on sleep.

The night also featured several songs, including a rendition of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle theme song by Eric Beam ’10 and Nathaniel Basch-Gould ’11.

Another standout humorous performer was Ilya Khodosh ’08, who performed a hilarious and very current piece while wearing two cut-out potatoes on his hands, claiming to represent the “potato-handed community [. . .] and their starch-handed brethren.” Khodosh voiced a hope for a “delicious, diverse, harmonious salad.”

Other noteworthy performances included the performance by Josh Solis ’10 and John McLeod ’10 of a literal and figurative knock-knock joke, and that of Lexie Hunt ’09, who dragged a chair onstage and delivered a spot-on oration on theater, with the fabulously overblown intonation and gesticulation of theater teachers, finally confessing in the end that she knows nothing whatsoever about the subject.

Two other hilarious solo pieces were delivered by Frosh Revue alumni Jordan Dallas ’11 and Aspen Jordan ’11. Dallas’s improvised phone conversation between family members on teen pregnancy and Jordan’s monologue about alien abduction movies won big laughs from the crowd.

The diversity of type and subject matter of performances made “The Spotlight” largely entertaining on the individual scale, but not cohesive, falling short of its theatrical potential.