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Broadway Comes to Brandeis

By Beck Holden

Section: Arts

August 31, 2007

As another semester begins, another impressive slate of ambitious undergraduate theatrical offerings gets ready to take to the stage.

With an impressive total of nine all-undergraduate shows holding auditions over the next week, this reporter contacted the key creative minds behind each production to obtain a sense of what makes each show so special.

The first major show of the semester comes from the Free Play Theatre Cooperative, which is kicking off its second year of existence with The Siegel (formerly entitled The Night I Asked Cristine to Marry Me), a new play written by Sam Zelitch 09 and directed by Allison Vanouse 09.

Zelitch said, “its going to be largely build-as-we-go which, to me, is the most exciting way to work. The best I can say is that (in the present draft) it's sort of Becoming Jane meets Platoon meets The Fox and the Hound.

“My goal is to inspire the same kind of uncomfortable laughter you get from seeing an untalented comedian who you happen to be married to. There will be music, mystery, madcap mayhem, mistaken masquerades, Maryland, Montana, and a 15-minute intermission.”

The Siegel will run in the Shapiro Theater Oct. 18-20.

The following weekend brings another student-written premiere, as Brandeis Ensemble Theatre kicks off the Undergraduate Theatre Collective's (UTC) season with Alls One (Acts), a pair of one-act plays written and directed by Sam Roos 09.

The first of the pairing, All in the Family, is “a bit of a wacky slapsticky comedy,” Roos explained.

“It's lighthearted, and it's a comedy in the sense that the jokes are unabashedly the stars of the show.

“But there's a certain resonance to the characters that I think really holds the story together, in a sweet, wholesome kind of way. In the end, like any comedy, it's about love, and I think that comes through in the relationships.”

Roos describe the second piece, All's Fair, as “more realstic […] in that it trades the sort of zany pace [of All in the Family] for a darker, slight more cynical humor.

“It's a tragedy in the most traditional sense, but not really a drama per se. It's also about love, but really it's more about the other emotions and events that love can make us feel or do, and it doesn't shy away from any of them.”

Alls One (Acts) will be performed in the Shapiro Theater Oct. 25-28.

The UTC's season continues with the Brandeis Players production of Paul Rudnicks I Hate Hamlet, directed by David Pepose 08.

Explaining what drew him to this show, Pepose said, “I saw I Hate Hamlet several years ago, and I immediately fell in love with it.

“It has great characters, a great script, great opportunities for all different kinds of comedy, but it also has a moral that really struck home for me: At its very heart, I Hate Hamlet is really a show about taking risks. Do you stay in your same old rut, just because you're secure in it, or do you toss that security to the wind and listen to that voice inside your head that's driving you to change?”

Pepose added, “You know what else drew me to this show? Swords. I have big plans for the fight in the first act but comedy, a great moral, and the opportunity to swing bladed weaponry? Count me in, I say.”

I Hate Hamlet will run in the Shapiro Theater Nov. 1-4.

Fittingly enough, Hold Thy Peace will present Hamlet the following weekend under the direction of Phoebe Roberts 09but do not expect this to be a traditional production.

“Ive always been interested in experimental theater, so this production is going to try to incorporate the elements of a theatrical style that defies expectations, challenges preconceptions, and tries alternative ways to communicate ideas and create effects,” explained Roberts.

“Im interpreting the story through the look and mentality of the punk/gothic subcultures. They are indicative of individuals who have strong, painful emotions for which they have no constructive outlet, and so act out in dangerous, destructive ways. They also visually illustrate the dark, hard-edged struggles the characters endure.”

Hamlet will run in the Shapiro Theater Nov. 9-11.

Next up, Free Play presents its second show of the semester, John Patrick Shanleys Savage in Limbo.

Director Aaron Arbiter 10 offered the following explanation of the show: “Savage in Limbo is an existential gem that takes place one night in a seedy Bronx bar. At first glance the cast could be stereotypical New York barflies. Yet Linda Rotunda, an overripe Italian, Tony Aronica, her streamlined stud of a boyfriend, and everyone else including the humorless bartender is, whether they admit it or not, lost and scared.

“In many ways they are still kids who have found that a very adult world has sprung up around them and suddenly they are thirty-two and the only thing they know they want next is something different. Savage is the kind of play Im ultimately drawn toone that I would want to work on as an actor. It has some of the best written characters Ive ever read.”

Savage in Limbo will run Nov. 16-18. At press time, its location had yet to be announced.

That same weekend, the Hillel Theatre Group, the only theatre group on campus that never holds rehearsals or performances on Shabbos and holidays, will present the last straight play of the UTC season: Neil Simons Fools.

In an e-mail to Diverse City, director Suri Ellerton 10 said, “After reading through Woody Allen and many Neil Simon plays, I finally came upon Fools. I hadn't heard too much about it, so it surprised me when I read it and fell in love with it.[…] It is really a fun play to watch.

“It's a fairy tale set in a town full of village idiots and, with Simon's wit, it creates a hysterically funny show. It's easy to fall in love with the characters and the play's ending is surprising and carries an interesting message.”

Fools will be in the Shapiro Theater Nov. 15-18.

After allowing a weekend without theatre for Thanksgiving, Free Play presents its final show of the semester, Timberlake Wertenbakers The Love of the Nightingale, directed by Becky Webber 08.

“The Nightingale is really a story about the dangers of silence and the joy and freedom found in story telling,” said Webber.

“I was drawn to it because it really asked the question, what if we weren't allowed to speak. Timberlake Wertenbaker is not afraid to take that question all the way to its most terrifying and inevitable answers: Bloodshed, estrangement, rage.

Webber said she was also choose the play because of its message of hope and faith in the society.

“The main thing that drew me to it is that I'm finally beginning to understand what makes this world an ugly place sometimes: Abuse, inequality, war, the children who get caught up in the middle of it. But this play tells us that despite that, there is enough beauty in the world that we are still entitled to struggle to let the beauty show.”

The Love of the Nightingale will be performed in Spingolds Laurie Theater Nov. 28-30.

The end of November also brings the big semester show from the UTCs resident sketch comedy group, Boris Kitchen, with their Annual Sketch Comedy Festival.

President Jessica Axel 08 said, “Boris' Kitchen is Brandeiss only sketch comedy troupe. We have three shows each year. In the Old Sh*t Show early in the fall semester, we perform some favorite sketches from years past. At the end of the fall semester, we host a sketch comedy festival in Shapiro Theater which showcases troupes from other colleges, plus our own half-hour set, and in the spring we have a full-length mainstage show.

“All of our material is original and written by members of our writers' team, which anyone can be a part of.”

President of Vice Roos added,”Anybody whos the least bit interested in being around funny people and creating pure comedy should definitely come out for Boris' Kitchen, and people who dont feel like they want to be a performer should definitely come to our writers meetings, which begin in October.”

The Old Sh*t Show will be in the Alumni Lounge in Usdan Sept. 28, while the Sketch Comedy Festival will be in the Shapiro Theater Nov. 30 and Dec. 1.

Tympanium Euphoriums production of Cabaret, the final UTC show, under the direction of Justin Becker 09 will wrap up the fall theatre season.

In an e-mail to Diverse City, Becker said, “A great work of theater is one that can transcend through time and still be relevant in its issues. Cabaret, as of now, is one of those great works that does transcend in a large way.

“Most would initially view Cabaret and say it is about the 1930s in Germany leading to what eventually became World War II and the Holocaust, and although they are right, they jumped the gun. Looking at the show as a cause-effect relation, the preceding summary would be the effect and what drew me is the cause. In fact, that is the true statement in Cabaret. What actually transcends, is the question of what causes such horrific events to occur?”

Describing his approach to the show, Becker said, “This will not be the typical Cabaret you see in the Liza Minnelli movie. I would rate the production 'R'. Come with an open mind.”

Cabaret will run in the Sherman Function Hall Dec. 6-9.

If you are interested in auditioning contact the directors or look for these groups at the Activity Fair on Sept. 3 for further information.

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