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‘Quickies’ bring out the best in student theater

By Ben Beriss

Section: Arts, Featured

February 2, 2018

This year’s “Quickies” were a wonderful reminder of theater’s potential power to create entertainment.

The “Quickies” are a series of short theatrical productions, which the Undergraduate Theatre Collective (UTC) stages every year. Each is created individually and given only three days to rehearse. As a result, the show became an example of excellent “student theater.” The strength of student theater has always been the energy behind it: it is a medium created by a community excited to create a performance. The speed of the Quickies compressed this excitement, creating a show defined by raw excitement and made for an evening which was alternately hilarious and heartbreaking.

The strengths of this style of theater are almost always the comedies, and the comedic quickies did nothing to defy this expectation. With so little production time, most of the performances were rough enough around the edges that the actors themselves ended up laughing at the jokes or exaggerating them to the point of absurdity, which only made them funnier.

Raphael Stigliano ’18 as a ball in “The God in the Gaps” exemplified the latter. Somersaulting and jumping around the stage while Kate Kesselman ’19 and Oliver Leeb ’21 had a serious discussion about faith and science, he looked so ridiculous it would have been equally ridiculous not to laugh. “Eatin’ Ziti” was another highlight, using Otis Fuqua’s ’19 clever assonant wordplay to create a Suess or Ives-ian sketch about a murderer and police officer who could only talk in poetry, which sounded alternately like poetic play and a waterfall of words.

The Last Angel, written by Eli Esrig ’18 and directed by Rachel Greene ’20, also leveraged a ridiculous premise into comedy, managing to make a sketch about a sadistic omnipotent being killing humans en masse hilarious. This was aided by the impressive performance of Blake Rosen ’21, as said being, whose refusal to take the calamities she talked about seriously kept us laughing.

“No Stars, Don’t See” was a satire of poor abstract theater and the inferior critics who review it. Playwright Noa Laden ’20 created two remarkably life-like characters, taking real traits and exaggerating them. Isaac Ruben ’21 and Ryan Sands ’19, under the direction of Emily Bisno ’19 and Caitlin Crane-Moscowitz ’20, brought the characters to creepily plausible life. (Note: Though Ruben’s condescending performance perfectly matched some critics I’ve had the misfortune to meet, I must caution against generalizing his character’s deliberate ignorance and cruelty to all theater critics. Many of them are quite competent and pleasant).

The comedic highlights, however, ended each act. The night ended with “Mrs. Rudy’s Seventh Period Cast,” directed by Sarah Salinger-Mullen ’19, which was a send-up of the classic high-school movie. With every classic stereotype represented and well-parodied the sketch drew on nostalgia to induce hilarity. Right before intermission, Zack Garrity ’20 treated the audience to “an original magic act” which went deliberately and hilariously wrong. Magically transforming a simple card trick into a concussed stagehand then into two overdramatic theater students, Sara Kenney ’18 and Tres Fimmano ’18, then into a dramatic reveal, Garrity kept the pace of his performance moving faster and faster into a magnificent self-parody of Brandeis theater.

The strength of these comedic sketches does not, however, mean the more dramatic pieces were any weaker. Though they suffered more from the lack of rehearsal time, there were many impressive pieces. “Lovable Calculation,” by Zack Garrity ’20 was an adorable personification of the relationship many of us have with math: initial engagement and later abandonment, a cycle which was faithfully portrayed by Rachel Leese ’21. “Black and Blue,” written and directed by Laden, was slightly off-kilter and profoundly creepy, telling the parallel stories of two relationships which raised questions about the nature of abuse and friendship. The performances of Liam Gladding ’21 and Gabi Burkholz ’21 were particularly powerful, showing deep anguish over their relationship decisions.

The dramatic highlight, however, was “Pas de Deux,” written by Olivia Ellson and directed by Nate Rtishchev ’21. Amy Ollove ’21 played the lovestruck homebody and Eliana Weiss ’21 the dazzling socialite and unknowing object of Ollove’s affection. They were truly heartbreaking to watch as they evidenced a deep chemistry and the potential for a love which could never be.
Throughout the performance everyone who took the stage, including producers Haia Bchiri ’20 and Karina Wen ’20, showed an incredible energy which translated into absurd comedy and touching drama. With enough passion, incredible art can be created with limited time.

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