Rob Sherron, Contributing Writer
I regret that I must inform all those who attended the Dallas Year ice skating event, Winter Cotillion or any of the other myriad school functions scheduled in opposition to Senior Studios, that the studios this year were the strongest this writer has seen in his four years at this university.
“The Way of All Fish,” a darkly comedic struggle between businesswoman Ms. Asquith (Skyler Patton) and her awkward and unsettling secretary Ms. Riverton (Catie McLain), was directed by Madeleine Robb. There is very little to be said concerning the production; given Robb’s uproariously comedic performances in the past, expectations were high, and they were very much met. While not perfect, especially as the play began, Catie McLain’s performance indicates a promising career here. Skyler Patton very much proved her versatility; no play could be further from the emotional H-bomb that was mainstage “Ghosts,” and yet Patton equalled if not exceeded her previous performance.
Michael Jarvis’s “Conquest of the South Pole” had quite the obstacle to hurdle; the pattern for similarly ambitious Senior Studios in the past resulted in a production that required quite a bit of effort for little to no payoff. But “Conquest” was no “Woyzeck”; it was consistently hilarious, often thought-provoking, and aesthetically quite beautiful. The cast was, for the most part, inexperienced, and this occasionally showed (three of four monologues fell quite flat), but overall they brought the story of a despairing band of out-of-work misfits seeking meaning through the story and re-enactment of the first successful expedition to the South Pole to vibrant, moving life. Of special note were the performances of Amir Razivi, Simon Lemaire and Spencer Sayre, the first two inducing the audience’s laughter and sympathy, and the latter producing chills. A final note must be made concerning Jarvis’ musical transitions: Although occasionally jarring, whenever they were successful, they were quite successful indeed.
Finally, Alex Trevino’s “The Romancers” was an incredible satire of the traditional star-crossed lovers plot. Caeli Austin and Alex Garbarino played the children of two old schemers (Nick Catanese and Mike McDermott) who hope to manipulate the overly romantic youths into falling for each other, by faking a family feud. When this writer attended, the audience burst into sustained fits of laughter or applause every other minute. Austin, Garbarino, Catanese and McDermott all became excellently and increasingly cartoonish as the plot went forward. The crowd absolutely adored Joe Mazza in the role he was born for, as he hammed it up as larger-than-life, fake-robber-for-hire Straforel. Two touches made the play oddly cinematic: Firstly, Erin Kleiber remained on stage playing the violin for the entirety of the play, giving it a live soundtrack. Secondly, Trevino employed a movable wall, which characters relocated throughout the play. This simple gimmick ended up creating the effect of ever-changing camera angles for the audience. It is difficult to describe how wonderful it was to watch such a simple effect; let it suffice to say that I cannot imagine watching this again without the device.
It seems that the 2012 crop of senior drama majors is a special bunch indeed. If you missed these shows, be sure to see Samantha Eberle’s, Kate Chiappe’s and Amanda Werley’s productions this spring!