Although for the most part I’ve enjoyed my scores of high school theater experiences over the years in almost every district in the county, I’ve got to admit I’ve seen some real clunkers.
For the sake of the kids, and my own sanity, I always manage to find some bright spots in the plays or musicals – but sometimes they’re few and far between. I’ve shifted uncomfortably in my seat many a time, waiting for a seemingly interminable act to end.
That’s precisely why I look forward to Sherburne-Earlville’s fall production every year – there’s no excruciating wait for the bright spots. That’s because director Colleen Law-Tefft annually stages a night of one-act plays – a dozen or so snippets of comedy or drama that generally last around ten or fifteen minutes. Don’t particularly care for one? Another’s coming along in the blink of an eye. For a pop-culture saturated media junkie like myself, it’s the perfect evening of theater for those with a preternaturally short attention span.
Last night, I had the opportunity to sit through the first half of this weekend’s selections, being presented at 7 p.m. tonight and tomorrow at the S-E auditorium under the title “Life, Love and Everything in Between.” Yeah, that pretty much covers it all, I’d say.
I must admit a little trepidation about seeing this year’s selections. For the past several seasons, I’ve ranted and raved in this space about a handful of Marauder actors who amazed me with their top-notch talents – and all of whom graduated in June. How would Colleen’s up-and-comers do without the first string? It may have been a rebuilding year for the S-E Drama Club, but I’d venture they’ve got a healthy stable of talent waiting in the wings.
The other neat part about an evening of short, one-act plays is that you truly get a sense of an ensemble theater company – that everyone’s important, and everyone gets their chance to shine on stage (and off, I assume, but they don’t let me backstage). That particularly holds true in this year’s “Life, Love and Everything in Between.” In addition to the large and varied cast each having a chance to tackle something completely different, several of the one-acts are student directed, and one is even student-written. Again, my hat’s off to Mrs. Law-Tefft, a drama club advisor truly invested in seeing her students expand their reach.
And expand it, they do. While a plot summary of all 13 (!) playlets wouldn’t be an effective use of this space, suffice it to say that there’s something for everyone in “Life, Love,” ranging from the ridiculous to the sublime. The evening starts off on a hilarious note with “Check, Please,” in which characters played by Brenda Hoefler and Eric Robertson go on a series of increasingly nightmarish blind dates. Pretty much anyone can empathize with that, and these two play it off perfectly. I may be dating myself here (no pun intended, I assure you), but Ms. Hoefler reminds me distinctly of a young Mary Tyler Moore.
In “Medea,” an off-kilter take on the Greek tragedy, Bekah Riley imbues the tortured soul with a modern attitude, with the help of her hysterical Greek Chorus (Geana Giglio, Skyla Murray, Taylor Morris, Brenda Hoefler, Bronwen Mahardy and Kayla Osterndorff).
Dialogue-wise, my favorite has to be “Controlling Interest,” in which Jeff Taylor drolly leads a typical business meeting of his suited colleagues – only they’re all eight year old boys (Michael Holeck, Max Pacilio and Brent Guiles.)
And for sheer strength of will (and no small amount of stage presence), kudos to Ethan Cameron as the befuddled thespian in “The Actor’s Nightmare.” Along with Emilee Smith, Brittany Clark, Lulu Riley and Eric Muth, they switch from Shakespeare to Mamet to Coward with dizzying aplomb.
The talented (and huge!) ensemble cast also features Kaitlyn Briggs, Luke Murphy, Craig Natoli, Isaac Mettler, Tyler Rundell, Molly Ogden, Claire Khoury, Margaret Dushko, Megan Rogers, Stephanie Joyce, Megan Matott, Zoe Enscoe, Luke Taylor, Joelle Clark and Rachel Walters (my apologies if I lost count).
If you know any of these young people, or are just out looking for a cheap evening of fast-paced entertainment, I’d highly recommend this weekend’s show at S-E. And if you made it all the way through this column, I commend you for having a greater attention span than I do.