Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
June 12, 2024

Witness Theatre’s I-Show is a wonderfully fun collection of creativity and mayhem in the very best way

By ALICIA GUEVARA | February 8, 2023

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COURTESY OF ALICIA GUEVARA

This year’s I-Show involved creative plays all set in the same location: a hotel lobby.

It’s always a bold move to sit in the front row of any group of people. Whether it be a huge lecture hall, a small classroom or an interactive magic show (a mistake I will not make again), back corners have become my safe space. I routinely linger at the edges of rooms, but, at Witness Theatre’s I-Show 2023 in Arellano Theater on Feb. 4, I sat front and center.

I’m not entirely sure what inspired this exception. Maybe it was the small and intimate vibe of the theater. Maybe it was the anticipation, built by excited murmuring and rustling programs, that drew me in and ushered me closer to the stage. Regardless, I was hooked from the second I stepped through the door.

Run, written, directed and produced by Hopkins students, the show consisted of four 15-minute plays centered around a central location: a hotel lobby. Each play worked creatively within the limitations of the set and setting to present a unique spin on compelling and relevant stories.

The first play, A Room of Una’s Own, is centered around the grouchy and irritable president of the United States (Andrea Guillén) on her campaign tour to advocate for her re-election. As she and her campaign manager, Una (Kirsten Choi), attempt to make their way to their rooms, they face enthusiastic opposition from Maurice (Ander Diez), the hotel employee of the month and an aspiring local politician. This, in turn, forces them to come to terms with their diverging ideals.

This play, written by Madison Epner and directed by Khaya Cliett, was a biting and satirical take on the conflict between idealism and the corrupt morality of politicians. It not only addressed the imperfections of our idols but also dealt with Una’s struggles to become her own person and woman outside of the shadow of the president. I enjoyed this play for its quiet recognition of women away from the spotlight and its nod to those who choose to do what is right instead of what is profitable or easy.

The second play, O’Brien Family Reunion, was written by Ava Powell and directed by Kate Ketelhohn. This was quite possibly the most chaotic 15 minutes of my life. The conspiracy theories kept piling up in a messy, unraveling spiral of possums (or is it opossums?) and identical twins in a funny comedy of errors.

The plot was grounded by the strong, heartwarming relationship between siblings Carly (Melissa Shohet) and Ben (Daniel Wen). Carly’s struggles as a drifting high school senior with no plans for college felt like a realistic plot to the play’s otherwise crazy, convoluted sub-plots, and her confession to struggling to measure up to Ben, who attends Yale, felt relatable. The highlight of the play was Janie/Jamie (Natalie Thornton) somersaulting and rolling across the floor Mission Impossible-style.

The third play, A Woman’s Place, written by Cassandra Mitsinikos and directed by Liesel Arauz Vallecillo, offered a window into the life of Ruth (Cristina De Jong), a savvy part-time receptionist and trail-blazing sociology student at the University of Chicago in 1921. Taking notes on the men who check into her hotel, she meets Ralph (Dimitri Sarris), an innocent and naïve structural engineer, and sparks fly.

I did not expect this play to be as steamy as it was. There was great chemistry between the two leads and Ruth’s sarcastic one-liners were delivered expertly. I especially loved Ruth’s impassioned argument as she discussed the true role of women in society. The comparison between reinforced concrete and women working behind the scenes was particularly compelling.

Finally, the fourth play, Darwin’s Theory of Disillusion, was hands-down hilarious. Two avian veterinarians, Robin (Kate Ketelhohn) and Todd (Mark Gonzales), on their honeymoon in the Galapagos Islands begin to reveal the cracks in their relationship when Todd admits to not believing in Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. Hilarity ensues when their couple’s therapist Marc (Jackson Webster) shows up and delivers his maniacal monologue as Todd’s unhinged cult leader and evolution disbeliever.

The whole play felt like something one might see on Saturday Night Live, and the dedication of each of the actors to their roles was amazing. I was surprised and impressed that they didn’t break character given that the whole audience was roaring in laughter by the end of the play. The receptionist (Mikey Pacitti) at the hotel was the unsung star of the play, and I loved his gleefully sadistic comments and desire for mayhem.  

Beyond the plays and production, which were awesome, the theater also felt like a community, an outlet where Hopkins students, normally burdened by course loads and syllabi, could leap around the stage screaming and waving butterfly nets. I truly will never look at a hotel lobby the same way again, and, though this was my first Witness Theatre production, I will definitely be back for future shows.


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