COURTESY OF WITNESS THEATER
Sam Cox and Becky Shade in the first play of the showcase, “First Date?”
Witness Theater presented their Fall Showcase in the Mattin Center’s Swirnow Theater this weekend. The show, produced by senior Sarah Linton and stage managed by sophomore Dominique Dickey, exhibited an evocative collection of four one-act plays written and directed by students.
“Of the three Fall Showcases I’ve worked on, I’d say this is the one I’m most proud of,” Linton said.
The first play First Date, written by alumna Monika Borkovic and directed by senior Daria Ramos-Izquierdo, featured Dave (junior Sam Cox) and Jackie (sophomore Becky Shade) on a comically uncomfortable and surprisingly metaphysical first date. From the get-go, Jackie appears not to be having a good time; she complains excessively about the restaurant’s bad lighting and reasonably about Dave’s ordering on her behalf. Yet, in some instances, she derives amusement from the philosophical and unusual questions Dave asks her, like when the two debate whether plants are conscious.
For a second, because of the seeming ease with which Cox and Shade display a remarkable variety of emotions, you begin to think that they just might be hitting it off despite the perhaps-satirical lack of small talk. Maybe Dave’s direct approach to getting to know her is working. But then Dave cannot bear Jackie’s revelation that she was friends-with-benefits with a woman that Dave dated after meeting at the Department of Motor Vehicles. Plus we soon find out this woman bet Jackie that she wouldn’t be able to endure a night of Dave’s questioning.
Dave, however, is surprised to discover that Jackie isn’t enjoying herself.
“You’re trying to find a soulmate by conducting an interview?” Jackie asks.
I perhaps most enjoyed the play’s dips into absurdism. The Waiter (sophomore Aidan Smith) questions the nature of reality and bonds with Jackie over their appreciation of objective perception. The play concludes with the Waiter and Jackie strolling offstage together (“See how he listens to what people want and think?” Jackie coos), Dave left with the check and their meal.
Parts of the second play Probable Rain, written by senior Michael Feder and directed by senior Rachel Underweiser, are also humorously nonsensical. Jacob (sophomore James Dweck) begins by announcing to Marty (sophomore Ritika Kommareddi) that it’s his last day at their office. Unfortunately, their boss, from whom Jacob needs his last payment, is in a coma due to a car crash.
“I’ll kill her if she doesn’t wake up,” he tells Marty.
Jacob divulges what he describes as “elaborate murder fantasies.” Then Marty becomes upset that Jacob wouldn’t have killed her in his imagined office shootout — even after Jacob tells her he was merely joking — wishing she meant something to him. Marty reveals that she is depressed; Jacob doesn’t seem to care and just wants a sandwich.
Marty doesn’t want Jacob to go for a drive, claiming that the weather is dangerous. The reason behind her behavior becomes clear when Jacob steps outside and notices Marty’s damaged car, implying that Marty is responsible for their boss’s coma.
Dweck shared his interpretation of the play.
“I think the show is about how the person you ignore might be the person who needs to be reached out to most and what happens when you don’t and keep ignoring them,” he said.
Indeed we overlook Marty until the end because of Jacob’s loudness and abrasiveness. Dweck characterized the show and its characters’ intentions as complex. I enjoyed Probable Rain’s use of dark humor. But many of its moves were confusing, and its characters’ repeatedly expressed hunger and thirst was perplexing and alienating.
The third play An Ode to Extremes, written by senior Sarina Redzinski and directed by senior Matt Mullner, also dealt with the possibility of violence in a hilarious manner. Marcie (junior Claire Beaver) opens the door, hoping the man knocking is her recently dumped ex-boyfriend Leo. It turns out to be armed robber Robert (freshman Gabriel Feuerstein-Mendik), who asks whether a man who frequently visits the apartment (Read: Leo) is here.
“I don’t know if he ever really was,” Marcie says.
Marcie removes a paddle from the wall and uses it to knock out Robert, whom she and her roommate Tina (senior Octavia Fitzmaurice) restrain with Christmas lights. The jokes Tina makes about Hopkins and being pre-med are highlights of the show. So is her and Marcie’s argument about how to proceed with Robert.
As one could expect, Leo (Cox) arrives on the scene; Marcie is delighted when he says he needs her. But she recognizes that she doesn’t need him; she is not a wreck without him. She is handling herself and the situation well. Tina and Robert, as if watching a reality television show, sit silently on the couch while Marcie and Leo’s conversation unfolds.
“This argument is so us,” Leo says.
Unlike its three predecessors, the fourth play Never Meet Your Heroes, written by junior Maya Singh Sharkey and directed by junior Sydney Thomas, was not comedic. It begins with Stephanie (senior Caroline Halligan) discovering Maggie (sophomore Sophia Triantis) camping out in the garage. Maggie reveals that she is hoping to connect with the spirit of their dead mother with the help of Stephanie’s ex-boyfriend Logan (sophomore Jonah Facciolli).
“I dabble in the supernatural,” Logan, the amateur medium, explains.
Stephanie reluctantly agrees to partake in the seance but leaves after breaking the circle. Maggie insists that she and Logan continue trying to call her mother’s spirit, whom Stephanie then impersonates from outside the door. It is admittedly hard to believe that Maggie would not recognize that it was her sister speaking until opening the door. But Maggie’s oversight was a creative way to shed light on the complicated dynamics of the sisters’ relationship following their mother’s death.
Afterward Maggie leaves, and Stephanie tries to call her mother’s spirit. We hear a knock on the door.
Freshman Sophia Lipkin and junior Laura Oing did lighting design and sound design respectively.
Linton, graduating this spring, commented on how this Fall Showcase is particularly bittersweet for her.
“Theater has been my home at Hopkins from start to finish, and the level of confidence I feel creating theater and being able to make theater a positive experience and space for other people has increased substantially during my time here,” she said.
Dickey echoed Linton’s sentiments, attributing the fulfillment she gets from Witness to the fact that it is completely student-run.
“When I got to college, I was like ‘I can do theater without grown-ups,’ and this is everything I’d ever wanted: to work with my best friends with no one there to tell us what to do,” Dickey said. “We make all the choices on our own, and it’s chaos, but it’s the best thing about college for me.”
Arts & Entertainment Editor Claire Beaver was in the showcase. She was not involved in the writing or editing of this article.