Merriment, Mayhem and Misinterpretation

I see a lot of high school theater over the course of a year. Sometimes it’s with great anticipation, others it’s paralyzing dread. The good thing about Sherburne-Earlville’s annual night of one-act plays is that it’s really neither ... with 10-ish, 10-minute scenes to choose from, you’re bound to find something to get excited about, and something you’ll wish was over faster.

Fortunately, there’s not much of the latter in what I saw Wednesday night of “Merriment, Mayhem & Misinterpretation,” the show that the S-E Drama Club is staging for the public at 7 p.m. tonight and Saturday in the high school auditorium. In fact, I thought this year’s collection was better than I’d seen in years.

Things get off to a great start in “Job Interview,” written by S-E Drama Club advisor Colleen Law-Tefft’s husband, Mike, while he was on the job hunt himself. Staged as an unlikely game show, three applicants are put through the ringer as they answer corporate double-speak questions and even quack like ducks in order to land the job.

“Come Into the Garden, Maud” starts off as a case of mistaken telephone identity and turns into a hysterical misunderstanding – and turns again into a bizarre horror flick. Lulu Riley is fantastic as Phoebe, who telephone-torments the delightfully bewildered John (Matt Smith) about a cat, and then a wife, he doesn’t have. The ending? Kinda weird. But switching from laughing to head-scratching on a dime works here.

Zoe Enscoe and Margaret Dushko play two pretentious art lovers who get into an argument about the interpretation of a painting – until they find out they’re looking at it upside-down – in “Untitled #2.”

Brent Guiles and Shannon Staley are heartbreaking as a couple dealing with the loss of a child in “Top Floor,” and Jeff Taylor and Kayla Osterndorff play a ship-bound couple who ... OK, that’s the one that didn’t do much for me; but judge for yourself in “The Mary Celeste.”

Act I closes with “The Frog in All of Us,” a fractured fairy tale featuring hilariously over the top performances by Megan Rogers, Dan Bagnall, Doug Parks and Brent Guiles. Act II opens with another tearjerker, this time between Haley Muth and Emilee Smith in “Bone China.” Smith then turns both playwright and director in the raucous and oh-so-true “Are We There Yet?” Mick Khoury and Claire Khoury play beleagured parents on the road trip from hell with their darling children, played by to teen terror perfection Matt Smith and Geana Giglio.

There’s no way to get out of this gracefully, so I’ll just admit that I left after that one. It was a dress rehearsal Wednesday, where people come and go a lot, and I figured it was best to leave on a high note. Let’s just say I’m sure there’s a lot more to love about Act II!

The cool thing about these nights of one-act plays (S-E does one every fall), is that Law-Tefft loosens the directorial reins and lets some of the drama club members direct each other. This year, Joe Natoli, Joelle Clark, Emilee Smith, Lucy Taylor and Margaret Dushko (who also wrote her own, “Dreams”) get to do the honors.

In addition to all the actors I’ve already mentioned, this weekend’s show also features the talents of Craig Natoli, Sarah Brown, Mike Holeck, Tyler Brown, Meghan Dushko, Tammie Crane, Mary Longman, Stephanie Staley, Jacob Taylor, Grace Dunshee, Ryan Bagnall, Matt Marvin, Alex Tefft, Vinnie Taylor, Amanda Hodge, Isaac Mettler and Luke Harmon. Phew!

Show times are at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday for “Merriment, Mayhem & Misinterpretation” at the S-E high school auditorium. Tickets will be sold at the door. For those with short attention spans (if you’ve made it through this whole column), I highly recommend it.

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