By Lydia Melby, Arts Editor
The Department of Theatre is serving up something different with its newly opened show Shorts! that runs Friday and Saturday and April 23-25 in Culp Theatre. Shorts! is a collection of 11 10-minute plays that are completely student directed, acted and produced.
This is a unique form of theatre because it offers a glimpse into its characters’ lives and situations, meaning it has to begin with a bang and build quickly, or it will lose valuable time and the audience’s attention. However, most of the actors and directors are equal to the challenge of the time and plot-length constraints and provide the audience with some delightful bites of entertainment.
The production starts off with a bang, beginning with Foul Territory, a well-directed and fun piece about the dangers of life and baseball. Although it has only two characters and is not the best written piece I have come across by any means, Eric Hampton and Caitlyn Taylor display boundless amounts of energy and a great connection in their portrayal of two friends dealing (or not dealing) with the obstacles life throws at them.
New York Actor is another high-energy production about a group of struggling actors who have a quiet, eventful night at a restaurant. Not only does this short feature fabulous costumes and witty dialogue precisely delivered by the principal actors, but the fast-paced humor that finally ends in a slapstick free-for-all is a welcome break from some of the plodding pieces preceding it.
Following New York Actor is That Midnight Rodeo, a beautifully understated story that is a showcase in even-handed directing by Kamilah Holtz. Rachel Propst and Josh Tumblin handle what easily could have been trite subject matter with realistic, subtle performances that transfix the audience and make their scene one of the best of the night.
When writing a short play, humor is definitely the way to go, since the flash-style of the performance needs to be fast paced and simple in order to succeed. And Shorts! certainly includes a fair amount of quality comedy pieces. Jasmine Richardson and Michelle Alexander together are a hoot in their hilarious-yet-poignant short Miss Kentucky; Hold For Three gives the audience a ride through the fantastical world of one girl’s riotous imagination; and The Philadelphia, a manic study in how to deal, surely will have you rolling with its rapid-fire dialogue and preposterous events. Time Flies takes the idea of a short comedy to an entirely different level. This whimsical satire about the human condition and seizing the day simply buzzes with over-the-top antics and the funniest (and only) portrayal of mayfly-erotica I have ever seen. Everything – acting, directing, lighting, the set and costumes – is fabulous.
The Facebook event for Shorts! promises “a night of fail-safe theatre,” and while this probably would be an oxymoron in reference to a more traditional play, the diverse offering is as close to “fail-safe” as a production can get. Since every play is only 10 minutes, if one is terrible, the audiencedoes not have to suffer too long. While the short running time is tragic for some of the scenes you want to have more of, a few of the shorts seem to drag on much longer than their supposed 10 minutes and might have you watching the minute hand tick by. However, the less than perfect productions barely tip the quality scale and are bearable, especially when you know exactly how “short” it is going to be.
Shorts! is a perfect chance to experience a fun side of theatre not seen as often as one might like. Some of the great things about this format would not be included in a normal play, like the soundtrack choices that open and end each scene and the charismatic scene changes (because really, you will not often see a stagehand perform a flip while hanging from the third story of the prop platform). Shorts! is one more example of the quality of our theatre department. While no show is ever perfect, this one has a little something for everyone.