There’s nothing better than seeing a play outside under the stars, sort of the theatrical equivalent of going to a drive-in movie. Last week I got to see two “Shaker’s” and “The Shape of Things,” both put on by the CSU Department of Music, Theatre and Dance as part of Caf/ Theatre 2002. The plays, along with Neil Simon’s “Proposals” are playing on a rotational basis through July 27 (see outbox for ticket prices and times). In addition to the great acting, food and drinks are served before the performances and during the intermission.
Below are quick reviews of two of the productions and a short synopsis of the third, rated from one to five stars.
Written by John Godber and Jane Thornton
Directed by Eric Prince
The trendy bar and restaurant that gives this play its title is the setting as four twenty-something waitresses try to escape the ruts they have found themselves in. One (Molly McGuire) is a mother with a 3-year-old girl at home, one (Karla Fremaint) wants to be a photographer, another (Kimberly Goetsch) is leaving to be dancer on a Norwegian cruise and beginning to regret that decision, and the last (Kristina Wiebe) is getting married and is just glad not to be working in a supermarket anymore.
The play tracks these characters through one hectic night at the bar, as they deal with unruly, rude, snobby and grabby customers. Occasionally the actresses slip into other roles, most often and annoyingly as four Target shopping cheerleader types getting ready for the celebration of a 21st birthday. The comedic highpoint comes when they transform into four male customers – complete with backward and sideways baseball caps and a perpetual slouch – who believe the world and all its female inhabitants should revolve around them, or at least seek their approval.
The play is well directed and all four actresses are confident in their roles and play off each other well.
During its comedic moments “Shakers” has snappy dialogue and is fast-paced enough that it is easy to forget that the four women are the only ones on-stage. However, it is in its dramatic moments that the play reveals its depth. Each of the characters has a monologue where they share their background and secrets with the audience, shedding light on why they act certain ways.
It is clear by the end that all of these women are stuck in an endless cycle of bad dance music, worse pick-up lines and endless drink orders. They want out, but can’t find the way or are afraid of what might happen if they leave. Shakers offers security, while the rest of their lives offer only uncertainty.
The Shape of Things
Written by Neil LaBute
Directed by Morris Burns
Set at a small liberal arts college in a conservative midwestern town, “The Shape of Things” may hit home with many people here.
Trevor Jackson plays Adam a nerdy guy who transforms from a glasses wearing, hunter jacket sporting nail-biter, into a Tommy Hilfiger model clone after meeting Evelyn (J. Brooke McQueen), a beautiful and persuasive art major who believes that the best art is about truth.
This play is about truth as well, and about honesty. About how lies can destroy friendships and relationships, and how the truth can sometimes be overly subjective.
Molly Weiler and Sotirios Lavaditis also star as Adam’s friends. They are engaged to be married and are learning their own lessons about trust and betrayal.
I won’t reveal any more details of the plot here because it is one that should be experienced without introduction, but I will say that the subject matter can be very frank and the language R-rated (a few people left the performance I attended after one scene where two of the actors were in bed together).
The script by Neil LaBute is both intelligent and witty (sample exchange: “I’m a student,” “What’s your emphasis?” “Taking out student loans primarily.”), with a final scene that will either make you angry or make you feel sorry for the characters, each of them for a different reason. The play earns both reactions.
Both the acting and directing are top-notch, and service the material well. Adam’s transformation over the course of the two-hour play is pronounced, and Jackson deserves accolades for a performance that is both restrained and emotional. However, a more abrupt transformation at the end by Evelyn, pulled off brilliantly by McQueen, places the play squarely in her pocket.
Written by Neil Simon
Directed by Laura Jones
Set near a resort in the Pocono Mountains, Penn., “Proposals” recounts the memories of a maid named Clemma Diggins (Shahada Abdal-Rahman) as she remembers a family reunion over a long Labor Day weekend in the 1950’s. Ken Benda plays the father Burt Hines, who suffers from heart disease, and Stephanie Tschetter plays Josie Hines, his daughter with the many suitors.
Tickets for all plays are $8 for CSU students, $10 for non-CSU students and $14 for adults. They are available at the Johnson Hall Box Office (open Monday-Friday from noon-5 p.m.) and by calling 491-5116 or 491-5562.
All shows start at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday at the stage located underneath wing-B of the Clark Building. Refreshments begin being served at 7:30 p.m.
“Shakers” plays tonight, Saturday and July 26 and will be on the Johnson Hall Mainstage Sept. 5-7.
“The Shape of Things” plays Thursday, July 24 and July 27 and then in Johnson Hall Sept. 12-14.
“Proposals” plays Friday, July 23 and July 25 and then in Johnson Hall Sept. 19-21.