The Manhattan College Players put on yet another outstanding round of performances, this time at their annual One-Acts Festival on Friday, March 23 at 8:30 p.m. Six student directors put their skills to the test as they led their fellow student performers in hilarious and enlightening one-act plays.
A one-act play festival is a time when student directors lead their fellow actors and actresses to create an impactful performance. For some, this was also the debut of a play written by a student.
For the two-hour performance on Friday, a lot more time went into the festival than it may seem. The hard work, as it ended up, was justified and clear.
Students lined the fifth-floor hallway of Thomas Hall as noise echoed out of the Black Box Theater, the homebase for all things Players.
“The Box”, as many lovingly refer to it as, was tightly packed with friends and family to the point of standing-room only. Players does not sell their tickets, however they do publicize a ticket reservation form on all of their social media platforms. The tickets for the festival went fast and were sold-out before the performance.
Soon enough, the doors closed and the crowd became hushed as the first play started. Actress Caroline Shea, with book in hand, sat at the simple table set in the middle of the open space, signaling the beginning of the first one-act.
Sure Thing- dir. Gabby Kasper
A simple bell played a large role in this first play. Every time it chimed, the scene would start over, giving the characters a chance to understand one another or fix their footing during this possibly romantic encounter. Bill (Joel Sanson) and Betty (Shea) gave a convincing performance and showed their acting chops when they had to jump from anger to despair in the matter of a second.
It was as if life had given them a bottle of white-out. As the conversation moved on, it would hit bumps or hiccups, only to be saved by the incessant bell to start a chunk of the scene over again. The play seemed to be not only about love and getting together with a person, but also connecting with someone who may or may not be the right one for you.
Mind Over Mouth- dir. Sam Corby
A slightly longer piece, the audience is introduced to Nick Chiofalo after he bumps into a girl, Camryn Kidney, at a bar. But the two are not alone– their consciences, dressed in all black, share what is really going on in their minds. Chiofalo and Kidney’s minds are played by Jamie Iacono and Katharine Scheid, respectively.
Several scene changes portray the evolution of this relationship, as they meet, go on a first date, talk about meeting Kidney’s parents, fight and eventually sort things out. A mixture of comedic bits while also deep questioning about what the other is thinking, this play, also written by director Sam Corby, brings on an interesting take on the classic boy-meets-girl.
In true Corby fashion, the set change between plays turned into witty banter with friend and colleague Matthew Peters. The two sat on the couch and chatted about Corby writing Mind Over Mouth and Peters also writing a play.
“It’s called ‘Not So Seinfeld’,” said Peters, as if talking only to Corby. “It’s about nothing.”
Once the two decided to end their humorous improvisation, Peters addressed Alex Kelly, another student director and the MC Players’ producer, in the lighting booth, asking Kelly if he could turn on a specific theme song for him.
Kelly went through a short sampling of familiar sitcom theme songs from Two and a Half Men, Happy Days and Friends (with clapping included). Peters was finally satisfied once the Seinfeld theme song came on and the play began.
Not So Seinfeld- dir. Matthew Peters
Peters never puts on a performance that disappoints and it is key to include Not So Seinfeld on this list. The actors went through the motions, chatting about dates and life issues like any other episode of Seinfeld. Michelle Lapreay joins Corby and Peters as they launch into a discussion on Baby Driver and Kevin Spacey’s role in the film. Spacey, who was recently accused of sexual misconduct towards an underage actor, was a touchy subject for Lapreay’s recent date.
This play was filled with slight references to the ‘90s sitcom, such as Peters offering his friends Junior Mints or the characters directly quoting from the show itself. Perhaps the funniest comparison was of Joe Weitekamp, who played an eccentric landlord similar to the character of Kramer. Corby is conflicted when Weitekamp seemingly dies after eating cheese Corby put rat poison on.
With the added hilarious physical comedy of Corby and Peters frantically shoving furniture out of the way and tripping over chairs, Sam Cunningham’s disastrous double-date with the friends and Weitekamp coming back to life and trying to shove a slice of pizza in Corby’s mouth, the crowd’s laughter was sure to have been heard all the way on the quad.
What a way to end the play, too. Right before intermission, Lapreay asks Corby, “shouldn’t this play have ended on a happier note?” Corby responds, “you would’ve thought so.” The lights then abruptly dim to the sound of applause and laughter.
The Chocolate Affair- dir. Peter Martino
The festival started back up again with Shea returning to the stage, only to stuff her face with chocolate for the first few minutes. With her cheeks puffed up like chipmunks, Shea’s character Beverly was visited by a man in a bright yellow shirt and a red tie, who introduced himself as Mr. Goodbar (Iacono). If Mr. Goodbar was the angel on Beverly’s shoulder, then M&M (Erin Murphy) was certainly the devil.
Beverly was caught between the good of eating the chocolate, while M&M continuously brought up the fact that she must have lost a lot of weight and she was finally cracking. Beverly agreed with M&M, as she explained through an emotional monologue of what it’s like having lead a perfect life: cooking organic meals for her family, looking good for her husband and being a good role model for her daughter. But sitting around scattered wrappers after checking into a motel solely to eat candy, she realized the two omnipotent figures were trying to teach her a lesson. The play ends as she looks at a bar of Mr. Goodbar and a bag of M&M’s, unable to decide what to do next.
High-Bot Saves the World- dir. Katharine Scheid
The set doesn’t change too much from the previous play, as the candy wrappers serve as extra props for what is meant to be seen as messy room, littered with papers, books and old bottles of soda. Tommy (Sanson) has thrown himself into his work, creating a robot that he thinks will save the world. This robot would allow people to get high as if they used drugs. His plans are put on the back burner as Jake (Ryan Askin) brings him back to the real world.
“Did you call her?” Jake constantly questions. As the scene continues to unfold, the audience learns that Tommy was recently dumped by a girl named Kayla and that he has a tendency to throw himself into his work, even if he doesn’t know how to code artificial intelligence.
As the argument begins to heat up, the two realize the importance of their friendship and despite past issues between the two of them, they make up and get Tommy back on track when he most needs it.
Peter Martino Learns to Dance- dir. Alex Kelly
The final play of the evening shared a name with one of its actors. Peter Martino (Peter Martino) stands behind a bar with his girlfriend Anne (Murphy), clearly upset. The scene jumps between this couple and another: Lisa (Kidney) and Matt (Joey DeSanctis). Peter and Lisa share one thing in common, despite not knowing one another, which is that the health of their fathers is declining.
We return to the characters a year later and realize that their relationships are not what they used to be. Matt is getting tired of Lisa’s juvenile nature and Anne doesn’t want the same thing that Peter does. Both couples split up and the scene ends.
The final scene allows Lisa and Peter to meet, with similarities between the two known now by the audience. But Peter is stubborn and is bothered by Lisa and she only wants someone to talk to. The question asked throughout the play is: “would you like to go dancing?” Matt asked Lisa. Anne asked Peter. Lisa asked Peter. Finally, Peter asked Lisa. The two dance in a hotel lobby, holding back the grief of losing a parent. In an emotional final monologue, the two embrace and the lights dim, signaling the end of the festival.
After the show, friends and family in the audience congregated with the performers and directors. There was also a special guest in the audience: Travis Schuhardt, who wrote the final two pieces in the festival.
Schuhardt, who knows Martino and Kelly from high school, is currently a student at NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study. He spoke to The Quadrangle about his process in writing these two pieces while studying things like poetry and theater at the local university.
“I’ve known Peter for a while now and I always have loved to hear him talk and whenever I hear him talk, I think ‘oh that would be a great character.’ And so, I kept trying to find the right character to fit Peter into and then I said you know what, I’ll just make him a character,” said Schuhardt.
“‘High-Bot Saves the World; was actually from my brother, who said to me, ‘you know what would be great? A robot that got high.’ I asked him ‘could I write that?’ and he said sure, so I ran with it.”
Both plays dealt with the theme of breaking up, something Schuhardt doesn’t necessarily draw from a personal experience but rather he has his own philosophy about them.
“It’s always more fun to look at how things fall apart than how things are made. Break-ups are typically watching a complex relationship fall apart and that’s a great thing to write about,” said Schuhardt.
Kelly was able to direct not only his friend Martino, who did the acting, but working with Schuhardt’s original script. He was also able to tackle it from a technical perspective, since he typically works in the lighting booth.
“[Directing] is a lot of figuring out the actors and understanding their personalities if they’re going to match with the characters. I also come at it with a tech perspective thinking about lighting and such,” said Kelly.
On working with his friends, Kelly said, “I had a ton of fun and I love working with Travis and we worked with each other on a lot of things during high school so it was great to bring him in and work together.”
Another student who balanced double-duty during the festival was Scheid, who acted and directed. However, this wasn’t her first experience student-directing.
“I directed in high school before but that was a co-directing thing […] whereas this gave me more control which was cool, exciting, but also a little terrifying because I’d never done something like this alone before,” said Scheid.
On balancing both the role of actor and director, Scheid said it was an easy process because of separate rehearsal times for the two different plays.
“Originally I was only going to direct but then the opportunity came for me to also act and I thought that was a wonderful opportunity. It was pretty easy because we had different schedules,” she said.
As members of the Players team began to clean up the Box, they all shared congratulations and compliments for another job well-done.