Theater Review: Under the Lights’ One Acts

Every year, the Claremont McKenna College theatre group, Under the Lights, puts on a collection of one-act plays directed and performed by 5-C students. This year, the performance was comprised of six one-acts involving comedy, drama, and some absurdity. It was clear that the theatre group was dealing with limited space and material, but that didn’t stop three of the directors and groups of actors from putting on a great performance. Other groups, however, were not as successful.In putting on a show like this one, the first step is choosing the one acts. A play should be interesting, creative, well-written, and possible to pull off with available resources. Unfortunately, not all of the directors put enough thought into their choices. An example of a poorly chosen one act was the first one performed, entitled

Miss You

. This one act reveals a desperate woman, a very annoying man, a cheating jerk, and his uptight but justifiably bitchy wife. All four are caught up in lies, cheating, and phone calls. The entire dialogue involves the characters going back and forth on the their phones, cutting each other off, and repeating “I miss you” over and over again. Confused? The audience certainly was. The staging had the actors all over the place, standing next to and in front of each other; the dialogue was full of meaningless repetition.The third play of the night,

The Sandbox

by Edward Albee, was another poor selection. Though the acting was stronger than in

Miss You

, the play itself was hard to understand and therefore difficult to enjoy. Before even seeing the performance, I was warned that one must read the script multiple times to get even a hint of the play’s meaning. This must be true, because I can’t even think of a way to summarize the plot without confusing you.The one act that really should have been cut from the lineup was

Crack the Whip

, which was adapted by the director and actors. It was obvious that the cast was attempting to make the play more appealing for the Claremont audience, as they changed the characters and script to include 5-C personas and situations.Unfortunately, they could not hide bad dialogue and poor preparation with witty remarks comparing Pitzer and Scripps girls. The plot involved arguments and cat fights between a CMC student’s imaginary Scripps girlfriend, his fantasy Pitzer lover, and his dominatrix ex-girlfriend. The three made-up women spent their time on stage either caressing the male actor or shooting snide remarks at each other. It is possible that the play could have been pulled off, but it would have helped if the actors knew their lines and had taken some acting classes.Fortunately, some of the plays performed that night were well-chosen and well-executed. The first play that truly deserved applause was


. Although the actors started off a little slow, the energy of Max Menke PI ’10 brought the play to great heights. Menke played the role of a happy New Yorker whose distressed friend cannot understand why he keeps getting the opposite of everything he asks for. Menke’s character casually explains that his friend is in a “Philadelphia.” What is a Philadelphia? Well in this play, a “Philadelphia” is a “universe” where individuals can become trapped and where no one can get what they truly want. Menke’s character, coincidentally, is in an “LA,” in which he is always happy even though his wife left him and he lost his job. The plot and dialogue are without question very strange, but the actors gave it their all and in the end it was very good. They understood that the plot was ridiculous, and they were not afraid to be ridiculous themselves.


was another great one act. This two-person play involved no set and no movement, just two actors holding Post-its on opposite sides of the stage. The dialogue of the play, however, made it possible for such simple directing to work. The audience watched the growth of a relationship as the two actors read aloud the Post-its they wrote to each other over the years. Such indirect dialogue can easily lose the audience’s attention, but because of the obvious preparation and commitment of the actors, Andie Wheatley CM ’13 and Wade Vaughn PI ’13, the audience was engaged throughout the ten-plus minutes. The witty dialogue displayed the ups and downs of the relationship so well that, by the end, more than one audience member could not help but cry.The final one act of the night was


, performed by Jennifer Baute CM ’12 and Will Kahn CM ’12. The duo worked beautifully together to create a scene involving a clueless detective and a trophy wife who keeps making excuses for her husband’s disappearance. The audience knows that the wife murdered her husband, and although the detective keeps finding clues (including witnesses to an argument, a shovel, and a large blood stain), he eventually agrees that the husband must have left town. The audience could not stop laughing thanks to Kahn’s amazing character work and silly accent, and Baute’s dedication to staying in character. The two made a dynamite team and successfully ended the night of one acts on a very high note.Despite a few weak spots, it was definitely worth seeing this production of one acts. For future productions of this annual event, it would be a good idea for Under the Lights to be more careful about which one acts they choose. It might also be a good idea to look into alternative performance spaces, as the actors would have looked much more comfortable on a less cramped stage. Leaving the performance, the audience was certainly focusing on the good rather than the bad, which means that the production was a success in the end.

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