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2014 Spring Showcase Review

The 2014 Spring Showcase concluded its four-day run last Sunday, February 9, bringing drama, comedy, witticisms, and excellent student performances to the Studio Theater once again. The Showcase, which consisted of four plays that were written, directed, produced, and performed by Suffolk students, provided an opportunity to see the dedication and talent of Suffolk’s theatre program; completely free of charge.

The showcase opens with its most dramatic and daring play. “Hum’s Girls,” written and directed by Ingrid Oslund, is a look inside the mind of a man who’s past and present thoughts haunt him like a nightmare. Humbert (Nick Castellano) is a well-spoken and educated man who has a dark secret; he is hopelessly attracted to “nymphets,” girls aged between nine and 14-years-old who are “sexually mature beyond their years.” Humbert knows that this attraction can only lead to sorrow for him, but he is imprisoned by his desires. “I am attracted to this like a moth to flame, knowing all the while that I will be burned,” he says in his opening monologue.

The play documents his twisted courtship of a 12-year-old girl (Anna Martel) named Deloris (nicknamed Lo), whom Humbert calls affectionately by the name of “Lolita.” We are shown how he is first infatuated by her eating a lollipop, how he then rents a room in her home to be closer to her, how he eventually marries her mother (Nicole Hoffman) to become her legal guardian, and how he eventually has her all to himself when Lo’s mother passes away. We witness him go from hungrily staring at her while she displays childlike innocence, to passionately kissing her (while she appears uncertain and scared). We witness how they develop a relationship that eventually crumbles when Lolita becomes old enough to run away and reject him.

The play has a dark, creepy vibe to it that excellently captures the internal hell that Humbert lives in, as well as the external hell he brings upon the girls (there was a first love in his life, Annabell, played by Lindsay Tomas) he preys upon.  The play does a good job of forcing conversation and thought about a topic that is usually automatically condemned as taboo. Since we are seeing the play from Humbert’s perspective, there are plot points that shine an almost sympathetic light on Humbert; something not usually attempted when documenting the life of a pedophile. However, in the play’s final scene, Humbert is confronted by the ghost of Lolita, who condemns him as a monster for the pain he has caused her. Humbert is devastated, but reveals he hasn’t changed as he begins to repeat the same line about nymphets that we heard at the very beginning.

The acting from Castellano and Martel is especially strong, and their on-stage chemistry is palpable in the most pivotal of scenes. Martel especially shows a wide range of emotions, from innocent happiness to deep and dark sorrow, all within the same play.

“For Every Reason, Rhythm, and Rhyme” thankfully comes next in the Showcase to lighten the mood that has just been darkened by “Hum’s Girls.” Written and directed by Marina Silva, we are taken inside the confines of a coffee shop as a cast of “regulars” shuffle in, performing their daily rituals like typing away at cell phones or tapping or whistling along in their own little worlds. Eventually, the play’s main protagonist Nate (Ricky Morin) walks in and asks the store owner Remy (Sydney Grant) for a job; which sets the scene for the play as Nate gets a firsthand look inside the workings of the coffee shop and its usual attendees.

We get a look into the lives of a busy businessman (Andrew Bourque) who finds a deeper meaning behind his choice of coffee, a 12-year-old girl (Jackie Gately) who is always waiting on a ride home, a fabulously handsome gay man (Conor Walsh) looking for “something more,” and a spacey woman (Vindhya Fernando) who constantly wonders if others can hear “the birds.”

The play explores the questions of why we get into such routines in our life, and why we never question these routines. Nate is befuddled by the behavior of the customers, but keeps an open and curious mind as to why they act the way that they do. It is because of his inquisitiveness that we are let into the lives of the regulars. Remy is the primary source of information about the patrons, but takes a hard stance about not questioning the way things work since the answers might not be satisfying. Her take is softened by the end of the play when she realizes that her own routines are stifling her ability to go anywhere outside of the coffee shop. “For Every Reason, Rhythm, and Rhyme” is equal parts thought provoking as it is comedic.

The acting was well-casted and the performances solid on all accounts. Freshman lead Ricky Morin was strong in his debut Showcase performance as the bright-eyed and awkward Nate. Freshman Jackie Gately, playing a bit out of character, to say the least, shined as Sophia, and senior Conor Walsh got big laughs for his over-the-top portrayal of Dean.

Next in the lineup was “Hamlet Submerged,” written by Robert Rejek and directed by Andrew Pinto. The play utilized a large scroll of paper suspended from the ceiling at center stage to help advance the plot, which revolved around a copy of “Hamlet” that has fallen in water, releasing the free will of the characters within and leaving them grappling for their lives and ultimately, a higher purpose.

Admittedly, the scroll of paper was an interesting idea for a production, and its highlights included playing with shadows behind the paper out of view of the audience (as well as a scene where the paper is pierced by a sword and torn during an escape from a torrent of oncoming water). Unfortunately, the gimmick did not make up for a lack of clear transition throughout the play’s events, and the characters are not able to make substantial developments in the short time allotted for Showcase.

The acting in “Hamlet Submerged” is by far the most pleasing aspect of the performance. Freshman Eddie Hernon plays a splendid rendition of Prince Hamlet, and his co-star (senior Brian Bernhard) plays a cynical and funny Horatio (who had the best character development in the show). Junior Raphael Roy is strong as Francisco, who’s connection to Barnardo (Jess Hickey) provides a moment of drama early on in the performance. Kimberly Wallace plays Queen Gertrude with a purposeful frigidity and Stephanie Rubino portrays Ophelia with grace and effectiveness.

Overall, “Hamlet Submerged” was a concept that could have been magnificent, but time constraints, a lack of sticking with one true genre (humor here, drama there, existential crises here and there), and a theatrical gimmick that didn’t quite hit the mark stifled its potential.

Last up in the Spring Showcase was the absurd but incredibly funny “Playing Dead,” written by Tom Martin and directed by Laurie Riihimaki. Senior Rebecca Bernardo and junior Alex Pappas are hysterical as leads Annie and Benny, who go through an ordeal that goes from bad to worse to ridiculous as one dead body in Benny’s living room turns into seven throughout a day of babysitting.

“Playing Dead” received laughs from start to finish throughout the audience as it incorporated effective improve, slapstick, and a wide range of characters who all managed to have their moment on stage and leave an impression (even Frank the UPS guy, played by freshman Ivan Cuevas, who is dead on stage from beginning to end, manages to have his moments in the spotlight). I think this is the aspect that impressed me the most about “Playing Dead.” Despite having the largest cast of any play in the Showcase, every character serves a purpose and has their share of hilarious moments. The writing from Tom Martin is undeniable funny, especially the absolutely delightful and satisfying ending that surprised a great deal in the audience.

The acting from Pappas is over-the-top in all of the best ways. Bernardo displays an ability to improvise and display real reactionary emotions in moments such as where Benny pretends that Frank the UPS guy is not dead while moving the body and she screams. Alexa Costa and Kevin Hanley have a great scene as Rhonda and Jack, Annie’s friends that first come over while they try to hide the body of Frank. Eventually, a stereotypically hilarious repair man (Jackie Gately), a nosy and bust-a-movin’ neighbor (Erica LeBlanc), and an unamused police officer (Andrew Bourque) all come through the house at varying inconvenient times and are met with their untimely demise.

“Playing Dead” sent the audience home with big smiles and capped off what was an especially well-done Showcase series. There is always added excitement, both as a fan of live theater and as a Suffolk student, to see your classmates and friends on stage doing what they love. However I would raise the argument that the Showcase series always seem to go above and beyond what you might expect from a student-run production.

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