Theatre Intime’s Freshman One Act Festival (OAF) presents a unique opportunity for Princeton University freshmen to produce and perform an annual main stage show, with freshmen directing, designing and acting in the production. OAF 2016 presents four one-acts —three contemporary short plays followed by a classic.
Garth Wingfield’s “Mary Just Broke up with this Guy,” directed by Alyssa Finfer ’19, explores one woman’s experience dating after just getting out of a relationship. In a suspension of reality, within twenty minutes, we see Mary (Shea Minter ’19) meet and one-by-one reject Her Dates (Justin Ramos ’19). Though character direction is often stilted, Finfer frames Wingfield’s one-act well, building up to a final reversing of roles with the effective use of pace and theatrical effects.
Stephanie Alison Walker’s “The Chocolate Affair,” directed by Ben Diamond ’19, imagines what happens when a favorite comfort food talks back. We catch Beverly (Maria Tokarska ’19) in a motel room binge-eating her daughter’s Halloween candy when two of her favorite sweets, Mr. Goodbar (Ben Perelmuter ’19) and M&M (Anna Zabel ’19), come to life.
Walter Wykes’ “Beer Girl,” directed by Marcelo Jaimes-Lukes ’19, showcases a drunk Bob (Charlie Cohen ’19), who claims to have fallen in love with Beer Girl, a makeshift human made out of beer cans. Only when Bob is forced to justify his love with his ex Flo (Raina Seyd ’19) does Beer Girl come alive to perform an act of loving self-sacrifice.
In both “The Chocolate Affair” and “Beer Girl,” sloppy blocking does little justice to the poor scripts. “The Chocolate Affair,” with themes of childhood obesity, extreme weight loss, negative body image and binge-eating, is at times too close to reality to be funny and “Beer Girl,” absurdist at best, lacks grounding for its comedy. Because of off-putting and underutilized comedy, though there is admittedly little to either script, Diamond and Jaimes-Lukes’ renderings fall flat.
The final one-act, Anton Chekov’s “The Proposal,” directed by Feyisola Soetan ’19, is by far the strongest of OAF 2016. We meet the invalid suitor Lomov (Ryan Born ’19), who seems to be in a perpetual state of paralysis, as he approaches his neighbor Chubukov (Luke Soucy ’19) to ask for the hand of Natasha (Justin Sansone ’19) in marriage. Though Soetan unnecessarily relies on Sansone in drag as a source of comedic effect, there is ample comedy to be found elsewhere. Borne’s use of physical comedy is bar none and Soucy’s delivery —especially of his reoccurring aside, “And that’s a fact” —is excellent. The occasional line slip does little to detract from what Soetan’s refreshing take on a Chekov classic.
Ultimately, because of gaps in script quality, use of theatrical effects and efficacy of comedy, OAF 2016 falls flat in its renderings of contemporary one-acts and excels in its fresh take on a classic. “And that’s a fact.”
Pros: strong performance of a Chekov classic, promising freshman talent
Cons: poor contemporary scripts, weak comedy