Monday, June 14, 2010

I see (minimal) Changes

‘Changes’, a fourth-annual summer compilation of student written and directed one-act plays debuted at Miami Dade College – Kendall Campus on June 9 and ran until June 13.

Six short plays were presented in about one hour, with a short intermission at the halfway point.

The kitsch of these summer production is that the plays are allegedly united by an overarching theme this year being, naturally, ‘Change’. Last year’s production was ‘Perceptions’ where my own one-act, ‘The Ratchet Men’, opened the show.

The opener for 2010 was a relatively funny little number called ‘Do I Need Therapy’ written by Robert Torres and directed by Maryam Sierki. Ian Vargas played Bob, a Woody Allen-esque neurotic therapy patient decked out in the standard-issue geek regalia of a plaid shirt bound around the carotid artery, easy-fit jeans and black oxfords, topped off with thick horn-rimmed glasses like a misfit Peter Sellers. The piece could have been reminiscent of Dr. Katz: Professional Therapist, had the actor playing Therapist Jim (Jaromir Garcia) been more sardonic and less, well – medicated. In a rapid-fire back and forth, Bob accuses Jim of having assumed his problems and at the end, after tentatively solving his problems with the opposite sex himself, Bob storms out of the office and, following a poorly calculated blink black out, re-enters the office demanding a refund. The ending was weak, but Bob’s onstage energy kept my interest until his final exit. Jim was dry and almost transparent, but not in the way a therapist is paid to be in the off-stage real world.

Next up, was the aptly named ‘Everything Is Not What It Seems’ written by Vania Vieta and directed by Julia Rose Turner. Out of the six, this was potentially the most promising but unfortunately the biggest let down. When Nelson Delgado, an erratic and oddly dressed cop goes to a strip club to investigate a murder, he is greeted by a resident dancer, played by Lyane Capote. Neither characters are named, and rightly so, because they were one-dimensional and advanced absolutely nothing. The stripper asks for cash payment in order to discuss the murder she witnessed, one in which it appeared her John had had a part in. All the money, along with valuable time, is wasted, for the cop gets no information and the audience gets no resolution. After one black out, the agent is seated with his head on his desk and is awakened by the stripper, who is now donning a sweatshirt as opposed to her previous corset and skinny jeans ensemble. The circumstances of the visit aren’t explained or even hinted at with subtext – the pole is still in the room, but the cop is supposedly at his office, or his home. Did the stripper and the cop get hitched? I’m sure this happens all the time, but the audience had no idea. Why was the stripper back in his life after a five-year cold case investigation? The set was confusing, and the story did not end on any note. Harold Pinter was famous for perfecting the incomplete resolution, but this one was just an example of poor writing.

‘The Papi Chulo Effect’ followed. The story dealt with three pink-clad women celebrating an engagement and discussing their experiences with “papi chulos” – essentially, Spanish Don Juans without the charisma. Each of the women take turns telling their own stories, in between shots of Jose Cuervo. How utterly a propos. One of the women is revealed to be dating a “Jew named Abraham” but for good measure at the end of the play, it is also revealed that the favorite and perhaps the only acceptable form of the shape-shifting “papi chulo” is the flamboyant homosexual, personified here with a pink boa and crown thrown in to counteract any suspicions of a P.C deficit.

After the intermission, the audience was greeted to (or subjected to, depending on one’s interpretation) ‘Rabbit Ears and Turtle Shells.’ In the story, Milton, a geeky young man enlists the help of his calm and collected waiter friend Brian in order to win the heart of Marie (Andrea Lopez), a young woman with a wandering eye and overprotective mother whom he knew in high school. After ordering a scotch on the rocks, Marie’s date shows up, thrusting flowers in her face. He orders a scotch, straight up, and runs to the bathroom to splash water on his face, maybe also to count the hairs that grew on his chest. He calls the waiter out for serving him “gasoline” and faints when Marie approaches him and discovers the quasi-Cyrano de Bergerac plot. The play ends with Marie repeating for the third time that the waiter was “cute.” The name of the play didn’t make sense at first, but was explained to me afterward as a rhetorical spin on the fable of the Turtle and the Hare. Why their dominating body parts were included in the title is beyond me, however.

‘Past Imperfect’ was the second non-comedy in the line-up. The plot focuses on a young woman (Tammy Salazar) plagued by her boyfriend’s relentless ability to not listen or tidy up. The boyfriend, played by Carlos Martinez, ignores her concerns with a handheld video game. After two telephone conversations and too many blackout scenes, it is revealed that boyfriend Steven cheated on girlfriend Karla with one of her friends, and Karla kissed another man at a party. In the end, after various conversations with her new beau, Karla walks out on Steven, despite his desperate pleas.

The final play was ‘The Game Show’, directed by Matthew Donovan and written by Jaromir Garcia, was one of the highlights of the production. Ian Vargas returns to the stage as a 1950s style game show host, donning a blazer and jeans combo a la Glenn Beck. Contestants included Lauren, a dim-witted aspiring model and actress who had been recently crowned ‘Miss Chili Cook-Off’ in Kansas City, (that’s in Kansas), a dowdy newlywed, Rick, who lost 20 grand in Vegas and is being egged on by his brash new wife, Tina, to “kick some ass” and make the money back, and Joseph, an apathetic teenager who spends his days watching Youtube videos and couldn’t care less about being on the show, much to the dismay of his overly excited mother Felisha Chang who at one point storms on stage to fix his cowlick. The first game in the contest was ‘Oh God, Not the Face’, in which balls were thrown at the contestants by the matchy-matchy sequined stage girls. Lauren wins the round, but is soon eliminated by Rick and Joseph, who vote her off the proverbial TV island. Two “commercial breaks” separated the rounds, both for cleaning products in order to stay true to 1950s shows like ‘The Name’s the Game’. The interrupted breaks along with the mention of Youtube were a fairly obvious yet fresh and funny anachronism. ‘The Game Show’ was overall the best written and acted of the bunch and a nice way to round-off a lackluster show.


  1. And you pretty much summed it up. :D

    Oh, and just to let you know though, the blackout at the end of the first show before Bob was supposed to speak was a tech blunder, the lights were not supposed to go out. Siiiggghhh....

  2. I thought so, lol. No worries, you did an excellent job, pal!

  3. To defend my play "Everything is not what it seems"- is not poorly written. Unfortunately, it was poorly directed and many people did not get to grab the concept of it. If you read it you would understand the difference between what was staged and what was written. Ask Ian Vargas. He will tell you.

    If it was poorly written then it wouldn't have made it to studio theatre.

  4. Maybe it's better on paper, but that's not the medium I was introduced to it in. And maybe I still wouldn't like it even if I read it. Frankly, something can be not very well written or put together and still make it to studio theatre.. there are plays on Broadway that haven't been too hot, so that's a moot point. Either way, it's my opinion, I didn't mean it as a personal attack, just an aesthetic comment.

  5. I know, that is why I am defending it. You only saw it On stage - but if you read it I know you would get it and see the difference of what was portrayed on stage that didn't mix well. I decided to defend because since you have not read it you don't really know if it was poorly written. It really doesn't matter if you like it or not- I just know that when it was done on stage and directed the way it was(things were created out of sync with the play). Various people who had read it didn't enjoy it because lines were lost and information that would have allowed the audience to understand that it was a dream sequence. The one he was talking to in the dream was the murder victim. But when the female cop comes in you realize she is the stripper except it is revealed through lines that he has had this dream before and various women in the police department have 'played' the part of the victim. However the director portrayed this as realism...