Undergraduate students have the potential to do great things. This year’s THIRDeYE Theatre Festival, entirely put on by undergraduates, is not one of those great things.
The first play of the festival, The Readers by Joe Ferreira, threw together important plot elements at the very beginning. The mysterious silhouetted paper passers, the barking dog and the franticly cleaning artist started the show off, dare I say, dramatically.
The play seemed full of promise at that point, and the audience recognized the potential for these disconnected elements to come together. They did eventually, but not before the play spent the majority of its allotted time focusing on arguing. It was positively tiring to watch and achingly mundane.
After these three people are finished acting horridly to one another (and in terms of performance, acting poorly in general), the play finally saw a resolution to the problems revealed at the very beginning, involving an unexplained use of magical realism that was never fully addressed.
There was a line near the end of the play that most accurately summarizes what I believe the writer’s message to be. To paraphrase, our ideas of perfection are bound by what we know. I may not know much about theater, but what I do know deems this unentertaining mess far from perfect.
Next, the audience was greeted with the interestingly titled When Marcelli Met the Dream Maker, by Carolyn Duncan. What we met, however, was mostly confusion. The play began in a seemingly normal living room, and abruptly and recklessly jumped into the world of the supernatural.
The result of this echoes slightly of the film What Dreams May Come. Similar to Robin William’s role, the main character Allie (played by senior dramatic art major Amber Nolan) was led to explore worlds of the mind’s creation. How unfortunate that I made this connection early on, since this fractured play fell so short of the film’s magnificence. Impressive acting from students Nolan and junior physics major Kyle Robinson could not help make sense of it; this strange suspension of reality used imagination as a crutch.
I spent the whole 45 minutes wondering if the play, much like the first, was some sort of allegory that the audience would not fully understand until the end. What I got instead was an abstract and unclear portrayal of unexciting inner struggle.
The festival was rescued by Julie Friedrichsen’s A Piece of Water, which arguably had the most compact and direct approach to theater. The parallel stories of two present-day journalists and two 20th century Hungarian women unfolded clearly with a natural pace.
The actors had a calm power that never called attention to the acting itself, but rather directed attention toward the developing plot. The play patiently contrasted passion and pragmatism by intersecting and overlapping the narratives.
The tone of the play was more quiet than outlandish, allowing it to avoid the misstep of self-importance. It is precisely this misstep that the previous two acts had wholeheartedly committed, resulting in profoundly imperfect performances.