SBU Theater's KNOWING AND UN-KNOWING Festival Enlightens Audiences
With old movie posters splashed on the walls, a giant tree and a grill hanging from the ceiling, the Garret Theater stage was set for "Knowing and Un-Knowing," the revival of SBU Theater's biennial one-act festival, which ran Nov 30-Dec. 2.
The 80-minute festival, directed by Ed. Simone, director of the theater department, featured six plays and showcased the diverse talents of the 12-person cast.
"Words, Words, Words" by David Ives kicked off the evening, starring senior philosophy major Brett Keegan, freshman biology major Anna Martin and junior journalism and mass communication major Makeda Loney as the apes Milton, Swift and Kafka, respectively. Their free spirits bounced off the walls as they attempted to write "Hamlet" and articulated complicated passages clearly, as they did their monkey calls amidst being watched.
The comedic atmosphere pervaded the room as the scene changed to "The Role of Della" by John Wooten. Junior theater major Brooke Perkins portrayed the adorably nervous Elizabeth auditioning for the role of Della. Perkins' hilarious physical comedy skills and ever-changing accents contrasted Emma's (freshman chemistry major Hannah Vail) snippy demands during Elizabeth's monologue. Vail also handled her character's plot twist with the appropriate combination of snobbery and grace.
Freshmen Isaac Clayson and Whitney Downard, a theater major and undecided arts major, respectively, turned the tables in Billy Finn's previously unpublished one-act, "National Smoke Signal Day." Both young actors showcased an awkwardly adorable budding onstage romance while dealing with heavy subtext as their characters' lives change irrevocably just because they skipped a day of school. Finn's gradual reveal of the scenario, with the story taking place as the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks occur, made for a well-executed drama and shift in the nature of the festival.
Comedy crept back into the lineup with S.W. Senek's "An Ongoing Examination of the True Meaning of Life." Keegan returned with sophomore journalism and mass communication and theater major Tori Lanzillo to portray He and She, respectively, acting out the Playwright's (Vail) script as it is being written. While fast-paced, Keegan and Lanzillo visibly enjoyed themselves onstage while constantly resetting the scenery and changing personalities and moods based on the Playwright's frequent changes. Based on audience reaction, "An Ongoing Examination" garnered the most laughs from the audience, keeping the performance quality and energy higher than ever at the midway point.
"Be What You Wish to Seem" by Jonathan Spector explored a deeper idea than that of writing plays or auditioning for a role. Perkins, Downard and Clayson starred as three people literally choosing who or what they wanted to be. While exploring the many different ways of existence, whether as an average human or a primary color, the previously unpublished play stimulated the intellect of the audience. Clayson's unforgettable trudge while costumed as an old Tibetan woman also shed a little white to the unconventional story.
The festival closed with Jose Rivera's fantastical drama, "The Winged Man." By far the strongest performance from its cast, Lanzillo out shined her previous comedic talents as Daysi, a teenager who becomes impregnated by a winged man. Loney also returns as Daysi's best friend Allysha, delivering sass while offering the not-always-popular voice of realism. In addition to being the most powerful story, it showcased beautifully crafTed Wings and a life-size tree for Lanzillo to climb in. It ended the entire festival on a high design note as well, thanks to the senior set and costume designer Emily West's unmatchable skills and unique designs.
During the opening night talkback, West, a theater and journalism and mass communication major, explained her theory behind the randomness of the set. It featured a large photographic print of grass on the stage floor, posters, pictures and painted landscapes on the walls and various objects related to the plays including a fake bird, grill, baby bassinet hanging from the ceiling.
West said she chose to make the cast barefoot as well as make the set a mesh of all the shows on purpose. Even though they all take place at different times and in different worlds, she said they are all happening at the same time, and are tied together by each cast member walking on the same grass.
Lastly, the last four members of the cast, the Builders, played by junior journalism and mass communication and theater major Frederick Alvarez, freshman biology major Kayla Back, junior history major Nicole Albright and sophomore theater major Will Foust, were responsible for the constantly changing sets between plays. Their choreographed actions set to music weaved the stories together and were executed flawlessly executed.
Needless to say, SBU Theater demonstrated the department's abundant talent in all capacities with "Knowing and Un-Knowing." Between comedy, drama and just the right sprinkle of subtext, the festival made the audience think a little more about life, and how much more there is to know.
Photo credit: Emily West