A ‘Tiny’ showcase of beginnings

Liza Curtiss '10, left, and Casey York '10 performed in 'Revelation,' a new play by Mandy O'Connor '10.
Liza Curtiss ’10, left, and Casey York ’10 performed in ’Revelation,’ a new play by Mandy O’Connor ’10.

The intimate space of the ’62 Center’s Directors’ Studio gave a few dozen people two opportunities to see Tiny New Plays this weekend. Amy Holzapfel, professor of theater, defined the event as a “showcase . . . in the most delightful sense, of beginnings; they are experiments with language, action, dialogue and character.” Four students each wrote a play and directed another for one of their peers for actors to read, exploring “what happens when one lets go of one’s own work.”

Eva Flamm ’10 wrote and Jesse Gordon ’10 directed the slightly surreal “A Shot in the Dark.” Elizabeth Fox ’12 portrays Sara, who has wandered for two weeks among rooms with color schemes that correspond to dispositions. In a somber place with “stormy walls” she meets John, played by David Phillips ’12, who takes time away from eagerly awaiting his perfect girl to inform Sara that she is “silly” and “smiles too much . . . it just makes it awkward.” Sara comes back from unsuccessful explorations in other rooms, which serve as a metaphor for types of relationships, and admits that John is right about her. After launching into a spiel about how his girl will understand him, John takes off to look for her. Sara admits to herself that she came to the place with the rooms because she happened upon a page of John’s journal and wanted to be there for him. According to her, “That’s what being in love is . . . not being okay anymore. It’s just a shot in the dark.” The dialogue was effectively vivid, despite (or maybe because of) the characters bouncing soliloquies off one another in the allegorical pursuit of love.

Gordon’s “Trivia Night,” directed by Flamm, fulfilled as a satisfying comedy. The chemistry between actors Noah Schechter ’12 and Joe Lorenz ’10 didn’t slip into prose‑like conversations like the other Tinys. The comedic exchanges between Schechter’s thoughtful John and Lorenz’s overconfident Peter were solid and amusing, if one‑dimensional. It was two guys in the typical bromance, delivering deadpan situational humor, answering questions on baseball and biblical knowledge: when picking a team name for the competition, Lorenz’s character remarks in prototypical fashion that “It’s just gold.” Jokes abound, with Frank Zimmerman ’10 as Trivia Master adding to the non sequiturs and tongue‑in‑cheek. This more straightforward piece seemed to engage the audience as the most realized of the four.

Schechter returns as Mark through a prop gray door to greet the second appearance of Phillips in “Cracks,” which David Blitzer ’10 wrote with Mandy O’Connor ’10 directing. This short play is as intense as “Trivia Night” was lighthearted. To give a hint of the dense atmosphere created by the dialogue, Mark remarks on the smell when he enters: “A weird smell . . . skin . . . warm jockstrap.” Both characters are burdened with a cascade of complex back stories. Mark’s homosexuality is eclipsed by his love of Balzac and the fact he is begging his best friend to sign his will. Dan, an impassive former lawyer who works at a crematorium, describes burying himself in the ashes of a woman he once met at a coffee shop. These old college friends seemed a little warped and very human. The plot hangs thinly over the rich characterization of their psychology, in this piece that seemed it could be most easily extended into full‑length.

The events of O’Connor’s “Revelation,” directed by Blitzer and Casey York ’10, are related through a narrator. Liza Curtiss ’10 subbed for Meghan Rose Donnelly ’11 as Cecilia, a woman who stays in a storage shelter after some undisclosed disaster. When Serafina, another survivor played by York, comes to plead through the door for shelter, Cecilia refuses at least partially because she is in denial that her daughter is dead in the room with her. Serafina reveals she knows all about Cecilia’s deceit. The namesake revelation of this piece seems to be that “Nothing really matters anymore,” and the piece drops off after its wrenching ending that left me wanting more.

In short, Tiny New Plays was a successful “experiment.” Unanswered questions left to the audience gave hope instead of disappointment. The playwrights bared their creative process, and if the bare‑bones are any indication, all are up to fleshing out compelling works.