6 ONE ACTS at College of the Desert are student directed

(Above Right)The six student directors clockwise from left directed: SOAP OPERA by David Ives; A KNIGHT'S DRAGON by Earl T. Roske; THE MAGIC TOWER by Tennessee Williams; SOMEBODY FAMOUS by D.M Larson; CHECK PLEASE by Jonathan Rand; SPIKE HEELS by Theresa Rebeck.(All lower photos are student rehearsals)

SIX ONE ACT PLAYS. Directed by Students in the Drama Department at College of the Desert (COD), Palm Desert, California. December 15-2011.

Deciding to attend the one night only of six one act plays produced by members of the Drama Department at College of the Desert was a fortuitous decision and I was fortunate enough to be given a seat to the sold out performance. It is a pity that the plays are only on the boards for one evening. Surely, the 120 seat black-box theater would attract another full house once word of mouth spread the news about this quality production. The two hours without intermission was well worth the time spent and was mostly pleasurable. Three cheers for the efforts of the up and coming directors, thespians and stage crews who made this eclectic production humorous, thought provoking and entertaining.

The plays were all student directed with only a modicum of input from Tres Dean the Director of Theatre instruction. The evening was designed to give drama students experience in directing plays. A semi-contest took place when 15 COD drama students submitted a play they would be directing. The six that were selected were given the green light for production.

Fortunately, four of the six were comedies and they stole most of the accolades. One offering was not a one act play but a scene from a two act drama, SPIKE HEELS by Theresa Rebeck . The final play THE MAGIC TOWER is an early effort by Tennessee Williams that is rarely produced and requires professional actors and directors. It is interesting only from a historical perspective to those interested in the growth of Tennessee’s craft.

The curtain raiser was the charming, well-acted two hander A KNIGHT'S DRAGON by Earl T. Roske and directed by Jennifer Kiehl. Actually, there is a third character, the dragon (Todd Silverberg) but he is off stage until the final (there is only one) curtain call. It seems that Lady Kandhor (Ashton Loyo) has placed herself in harm’s way asking the dragon to eat her. This is preferable to marrying a nerd in court and living out her life unhappy. Along comes Sir Glahdly (Anthony Gomez) to the rescue and will free the Lady and slay the dragon. The lady will have no part of this and her scathing justification dialog brings raucous laughter. Alas, the dragon does not want to eat plump females (she calls herself that it and thatis not the observation of this reviewer) but prefers knights in shining armor. And you probably can guess the rest of the story. (Crew: Sally Kudroshoff, Cio Rodriguez, Elvis Rivera).

With a quick scene change, two small round tables each with two chairs appear and CHECK PLEASE by Jonathan Rand and directed by Danika Valenzuela begins. It is the true hit of the evening. Eight actors play 14 parts in 13 black out vignettes that you must see to believe. Consider a first date and what could possibly happen and it does. The two actors that don’t change characters are Girl (Hannah Seals) and Guy (Paul Barba) who have hilarious first dates. She with a self-centered male, a sports nut, a nauseating lothario, an infantile man who is still in his childhood, a gay actor, a nut with every phobia in the book, someone too quiet to make conversation and a man who is dressed in paper bags. Guy meets with a sports addicted woman, a constantly talking women who wants to marry him and ”we just met 30 second ago”, a kleptomaniac stealing the plates and silverware, an older woman, a member of his mother’s bridge club (?) with a walker and her knitting, and a non-talking mime. Some of the others are just as hilarious. Other cast members are Matthew Reyes, Jennifer Kiehl, Pedro Mora, Megan Noble and Arturo Noble. (Crew Kay Still, Carmen Garcia, Vanessa Gonzales).

The most difficult play to direct for a first time director is probably SOMEBODY FAMOUS by D.M. Larson. And director Diana Valle gives it a good shot but has the disadvantage of following Check Please. Consider four women prisoners who have to clean up a theatre under a harsh Captain and a loveable guard. The reason for the cleanup is in preparation for the arrival of Melinda (Paulette Bartlett) who just happens to be a famous actress who in her murder mystery play has actually killed the entire cast. The prisoners are to be involved in “drama Therapy.” It is a take-off on the musical Chicago and on the incarceration of Martha Stewart and 'Queen of mean' Leona Helmsley. The actors do not have much to do except move brooms around the stage and the laughs are written into the dialog. Professional directors never dare give a seasoned actor “line direction” but in this show with fledgling actors, line direction would have been appropriate. Cast: Nicole Whitenight, Ani Mikaelian, Eduardo Rodriguez , Amber Perez , Paulette Bartlett, Chad Arnold ,Megan Camacho. Crew: Israel Adape & Paul Barba

The cast of Somebody Famous did a great job cleaning the stage and the crew of Spike Heels adeptly set the stage for a scene from Theresa Rebeck’s early play that is tightly directed by Murray Wine. Wine gives an introductory capsule synopsis of what has occurred up to this scene and it is confusing rather than explanatory. However, his two actors do a fine job with Rebeck’s sharp dialog defining their roles as two upscale, intelligent women seeking true love and good sex in a man’s world. Their solution to “stand tall” in a male chauvinistic world is to wear spike heels that give a woman a feeling of empowerment while making their legs look great. Cast: Natasha Garcia and Jennifer Kiehl. Crew: Kenneth Williams Sr., Kenneth Williams, Jr., Jayke Stump.

Humor and satire return to the stage with Soap Opera by David Ives and directed by Florentino Carrillo. You don’t need to remember lonely Maytag Washing machine repairman who was a big hit in his TV commercials, you still will get a laugh and a giggle and maybe even a whirl. Why a whirl? Because a main secondary character is a picture-perfect washing machine and the repairman (Ramon Martinez) falls in love with her/it. Did I mention that the entire play is a long running TV soap opera? Well it is with the entire cliché situation one would expect. Should he tell his girlfriend Mabel ? Is the washer two-timing him with a dryer? Stay tuned for the next episode. This one act is extremely funny with play on words and metaphors that will keep you chuckling. Cast: Ramon Martinez , Liridona Leti, Aundrea Noffsinger, Hannah Seals , Luis Salazar,Felipe Anzures , Brooke Blumenthal , Zeus Ley.

In the San Francisco Bay Area Tennessee Williams is being honored on this 100th anniversary of his birth with many of his well-known plays being produced. One group has even resurrected his only full length comedy Period of Adjustment and surprisingly it has been well received. Tennessee’s lesser known one act plays often are only are mounted for their historical value. It is probably the reason director Will Rian selected THE MAGIC TOWER written very early in Tennessee’s career. From this reviewer’s observation, it seems apparent that director Rian subjugated the poetry in the script to emphasize the plot line. Further he has unbalanced the fragility of a love relationship that thrives in a rundown tenement flat that is perceived by the romantic minded Linda (Rebecca Rowley) as her “magic Tower” by having a blustery Mitch (Daniel Ybarra) almost brow beat Linda into making a life changing decision. (Additional cast: Doug Newton, Nicole Whitenight, Katrina Banos. Crew: Chris Melendrez, Zachary Johnson, Allison Feist, Lance Martinez, Jordan Potesta.

Three cheers for this ambitious endeavor by the entire drama department at the College of the Desert. It is certain that some of the names in this review will be appearing in print or on line in future years.

Kedar K. Adour, MD

Courtesy of www.theatreworldinternetmagazine.com