Oh Dad, Poor Dad has nothing to feel sad about
The actors were in character surprisingly early on the opening night of the UCDP’s Directors’ Showcase—the quirky bellboys (played by Shirley Yip and Linn Oyen Farley) of Joy Lee’s rendition of Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Mama’s Hung You in the Closet and I’m Feeling So Sad mingled with audience members as they took their seats in the Helen Gardiner Phelan Playhouse. Madame Rosepettle (Yevgeniya Falkovich) and her son, Jonathan (Justin Miler), also got into character onstage, offering a smooth introduction into Arthur L. Kopit’s crookedly fascinating play.
The offbeat storyline took twists and turns as Albert fell in love with a prostitute (Pippa Leslie), which instigated a convoluted series of name changes. The confusion was cleverly settled after an excellent monologue by Falkovich. Her more-than-mildly corrupted character clarified the incestuous relationship between herself and her son, also revealing that she had murdered her husband.Miler convincingly filled his role as the sheltered, socially-challenged Jonathan with his Ace Ventura outfit and the gestures inspired by Mad TV’s Stewart character. Leslie also portrayed her doll-like character masterfully, showing off her versatility as she went from wide-eyed to legs-wide-open—at which point she was left for dead.The setting and props were simple, yet fit well with the bizarre, exaggerated nature of the play. The roles of the bellboys and the personified plants seemed a bit redundant, and could have used a bit more polish. Sound designer Maddie Fordham, however, was spot on. The comically morbid play ended off with the exact thought that was running through my head during the entirety of the play, specifically in the words of Freddie Mercury: “Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?”—Jessica Tomlinson
Insomnia kept us awake
The showcase’s theme of struggle between reality and fantasy continued with Insomnia, a play by Daniel Brooks and Guillermo Verdecchia that was directed by Joshua Perry. It began with a series of quick and ambiguous scenes set against the shaky marriage of John F. (Philip Furgiuele) and Gwen (Emily Kedar). The pair quickly revealed a strong chemistry in their plausible domestic dispute and engaged their characters very well using great tone, volume, and clarity.
John F’s insomnia was just the cherry on top of his other burdens—the stress associated with his newborn child, his financial problems, his writer’s block, and his adulterous interest in his sister-in-law.Furgiuele’s considerable talents shone in his nervously paranoid portrayal rife with twitching, trembling, and a glossy-eyed gaze. John’s brother, William (Simon Gleave,) and his wife, Kate (Becky Fallis,) were also performed very well.Still, the play’s real strength was its atmospheric design—the set was worked perfectly into the performance, with spotlights, silhouettes, and deep, heavy drum beats all enhancing the dark and twisted nature of the play. The crew did stumble across a few glitches: there was an almost-hazardous candle incident and an immovable sliding screen, while some transitions were weak with some off-stage voices too loud. Still, these first-night setbacks were minor and didn’t detract too much from the production.William’s sly and persuasive style, combined with Kate’s seductive behavior, causes unfortunate and sinful events throughout the play, corrupting John and Gwen’s vulnerable minds. Still, is the whole storyline just a dream? Although Insomnia was very confusing and required the utmost attention to follow, it was nothing less than entertaining.—JT
A soulful success
John Mighton’s Body and Soul, which was directed by Janina Kowalski, took a fascinating look at love, marriage, sex, and death. Taking place within laboratories, funeral homes, talk show sets, and a mundane suburban home, the play questions the notion of desire. One of the biggest questions addressed was how new forms of technology can be designed to simulate the things we want most.
The theatre was consistently filled with laughter, and the set design only enlivened things further. The cast performed terrifically and could easily be watched over and over again—despite being students, they’re true professionals, and all likely to succeed as dramatic artists. Definitely a performance worth watching.—Christine Jeyarajah