There’s one thing that makes everything cooler. Space. Why have a story about pirates when you could have a story about space pirates? Why watch a play about a normal old divorce attorney when you could watch a play about an intergalactic divorce attorney? And sure, stories about people going insane are cool and interesting, but what about people going insane on a spaceship?
From Feb. 2–4, Witness Theater presented their 2024 I-Show. Witness Theater is the only theater group on campus whose plays are entirely written, produced and directed by students. Having gone to previous Witness performances, I’ve found that a unique strength of the Witness productions is how they’re able to reflect the mindsets and specific culture of students at Hopkins.
Coming into the Arellano Theater on Friday night, the first thing I noticed was how good the set design was. The whole place looked like something out of the Buzz Lightyear movie. The crew had created a giant control console piece, covered in colorful little buttons and doodads. There were control panels on the back wall that glittered with lights. They had a handprint scanner next to the door that actors would press their hands against to “open” during the performances. There was a big faint window that showed stars and planets outside the spaceship. They also had a giant, hand-painted pirate flag on the back wall.
The first play of the night was “People Pleasing Pirates (in Space!)” which was written by sophomore Tessa Barcelo and directed by junior Darrell La. The play featured a pair of space pirates, Renshaw (Mikey Pacitti) and Cuthbert (Yona Levine), who are struggling to make it on their own after leaving their previous employment at a larger space pirate ship. The two speak about missing the good old days and wanting to get their “space mojo” back, wanting to be fearsome and successful space pirates again.
Over the course of the play, we watch the two space pirates attempt to board a pleasure cruiser to steal their “space money.” However, over the course of the ambush, the two victims on the ship, a pre-K teacher and an interior designer (Raquel Conceiçáo and Johanna Privado), helped show Renshaw and Cuthbert that they didn’t really want to be space pirates after all. Instead, they just never got the opportunity or never knew the possibility of doing anything else with their lives. Renshaw confesses his desire to be a space interior designer and even starts networking with one of his captives. Cuthbert doesn't know what they want to do next, but the captives and Renshaw tell them that that’s okay and that they’ll figure it out together.
The second play was “Intergalactic Divorce Attorney,” which was written by sophomore Yara Changyit-Levin and directed by sophomore Linh Pham. The premise of this play was that the captain of a spaceship (Raquel Conceiçáo) kept somehow finding herself blundering into marriages with aliens because of her lack of knowledge about other cultures’ marital customs. Because of this, an intergalactic divorce attorney (Darrell La) has to keep getting her out of all the accidental marriages.
Over the course of the play, the captain, divorce attorney and their medical officer (Kayla Sinkler) get into multiple intergalactic hijinks, including alien possession, capture by an ex-husband of the captain’s and two fake marriages. I did find it a little difficult to follow the sequence of events during the play, but I thought that the overall premise of intergalactic cultural miscommunication was fun.
The third play was “Crisis Aversion Test,” which was written by sophomore Max Hsu and directed by junior Ander Diez. This followed a pair of passengers, Stockton and Hamish (Johanna Privado and Mikey Pacitti), and a scientist (Yona Levine) on board a new spacecraft’s maiden voyage to the moon, only for the wing of the spacecraft to come off, taking all their food and hope for survival with it. We watch as the three inhabitants of the spacecraft quickly descend into arguments and fights when they realize there’s no chance for rescue.
The three space travelers decide to do a simple number guessing game to figure out which of them should be eaten first, and in a cool moment of dramatic irony, the audience gets to watch as Stockton secretly changes his number behind his back to make it so that Hamish, a supposed friend, dies instead. I really enjoyed watching Stockton’s descent into madness as he murders the other two shipmates, one out of desperation for food and the other in cold blood. The murders were genuinely surprising and final.
At the end of the play, it’s revealed in a twist ending that the three weren’t in space after all. Instead, it was all a test to see if Stockton and Hamish were ready for real space travel. They had never even left the Earth, and now two people were dead.
On the whole, I thought that the three plays were all pretty good. They experimented with topics like queerness, friendship, desperation and trying to find one’s place in the world. I think that these are definitely ideas that would resonate with most Hopkins students, and, while they were executed to varying levels of success, overall I was impressed that everything we saw that night was completely created by students. If you want to see Witness Theater perform for yourself, be sure to check out their Spring Show, performed from April 26–28.
Max Hsu is a contributing writer for The News-Letter and did not contribute to the reporting, writing or editing of this article.