By Clare Myers
This year’s fall senior studios were an eclectic bunch. One night of the plays, which are performed in sets of two, paired “Polaroid Stories,” a dark series of vignettes about addiction and life on the streets with “The Truth About the Truth,” a snappy comedy about the nature of theater and characters. The next juxtaposed the Woody Allen play “God,” a fast-paced comedy that questions the ideas of fate and meaning through humor and absurdity, and “Sotoba Komachi,” a tragic modern take on a traditional Japanese “noh” play.
“Polaroid Stories,” directed by Catie McLain, was thought-provokingly intense. Senior Jerick Johnson was phenomenal as the harsh drug dealer “D,” short for Dionysus. He was a clear standout, as was sophomore Zeina Masri, strikingly fierce as Semele/Persephone, gradually unraveling to let raw desperation show through a façade of toughness. The cast included a few new faces to the stage of University of Dallas theater productions, who at times betrayed inexperience. Sophomore Jack Gilloon, however, showed promise as an Oklahoma boy who sinks too deep into addiction to escape. The show moved expertly through a surprising number of short scenes, facilitated by good use of lighting on an intricate set and well-chosen musical transitions. The overall power of the performance overrode its flaws.
“The Truth About the Truth,” directed by Joseph Dodd, was marked by its witty banter. A solid cast kept the play from being too intellectual by grounding its language in expressiveness. Freshman Stephen Eich was smart as Mr. Dodson, an obstinate and idealistic playwright, and sophomore Rachel Polzer as Violet, the all-knowing maid, was a forceful presence on the stage. As a play about plays, the one-act performance could have been tiresome to a general audience, but the strength of the cast made it enjoyable. With the main focus on the action and the actors themselves, the show left an impression of being extremely well-orchestrated.
The relentlessly hilarious “God,” directed by Aidan Malone, was superb. Malone benefited from the excellent rapport between the juniors James McGregor and Simon Lemaire as Hepatitis and Diabetes. The cast as a whole was effective, accomplishing the difficult task of harmonizing several seemingly random characters into a cohesive whole. Junior Paul Lewis and sophomore Jacob Heimlich were particularly impressive in small supporting roles. “God” breaks the fourth wall and actively engages the audience, satirizing theater while keeping theatergoers laughing out loud. The plot, which switches between time periods and locations with barely enough time to allow the audience to keep up, was deliciously absurd, and the performance as a whole was downright enjoyable.
Annie Zwerneman took on a difficult challenge with “Sotoba Komachi,” a haunting version of a traditional love story. It was an ambitious choice, but ultimately a successful performance. Junior Ali Sentmanat and senior Anthony Kersting crackled and clashed impressively as the main characters, although their give-and-take was much stronger in the beginning and the middle than towards the climax of the play. The momentary weakness was salvaged by a terse closing scene with Sentmanat callously returning to the mundaneness of a nicotine addiction after the demise of her would-be lover. The set and transitions were very well done, and the performance was aided by an excellent use of the minor characters, three sets of young lovers who function more as pieces of the set than as characters.
This semester’s crop of senior studios was impressive, and the senior directors should be congratulated on a job well done.