This weekend and next weekend, February 15, 16, 17, 22, and 23, the RPI Players will present their annual Evening of Performance, featuring three one-act plays and a short improv performance by Sheer Idiocy. I was privileged to attend one of their rehearsals this past Monday, and if it was any indication, the actual show will be spectacular.
The first play in the evening was called Variations on a Theme, and featured just that: 10 variations of a single scene. The basic premise is that of a high school graduate arriving at the train station for her trip to a far-away school. There, she runs into her ex-boyfriend, with whom she’d broken up the night before after a fight about her leaving. The 10 scenes all share many common elements but differ enough from each other that they all feel like separate scenes. Indeed, for the first two variations, I thought they were concurrent events occurring at the same place. In the third variation, I realized that the characters had the same names each time. Each performance was well-acted and pulled at the heartstrings, from the declarations of love to the symbolic Twizzlers.
The second play, titled The Mystery of Twicknam Vicarage, took place in a sitting room where two couples are having a dinner party together. The play begins in darkness, with three gunshots and a scream, and when the lights come back on, one of the husbands—named Jeremy—is dead. A Scotland Yard inspector shows up to investigate, and hilarious hijinks ensue. This play was much more light-hearted than the first, showcasing the actors’ ability to do ridiculous accents (the surviving husband kept saying “shitting accident” rather than “shooting accident”) and raunchy antics (the dead man is revealed to have had relations with some of the furniture) perfectly in stride. By the play’s end I was laughing so hard I nearly fell out of my seat.
The third play, Floor 13, starts out with a young man stepping out of an elevator, only to realize he’s on the wrong floor and unable to get back inside the elevator in time. As he waits, he starts talking to himself, revealing that he is there to interview for a journalist position at a newspaper. When the elevator returns, he is prevented from getting on by a woman getting off. They get angry and argue with each other, revealing some of the woman’s backstory—she’s an overworked college student—until the lift arrives again, spilling out two more people who are also on the wrong floor: a teenage champion chess player and an older girl left stranded by her father. The four converse while they wait for the elevator, slowly growing more and more manic as their lives are laid out in ever more tragic detail. They start to weave their speech together, with symbols in each of their lives taking on double meanings in the others’. The last few minutes were like listening to a slam poem—powerful and moving—but not much like a play, especially as the actors just stood on the stage staring at the audience, not noticing when the lift came a final time.
All in all, the Evening of Performance rehearsal was excellent. All three plays were great to watch, from the sympathy-inducing Variations to the hilarious Mystery to the gripping Floor 13. I definitely recommend going; tickets are only $5 with an RPI ID. The showings all start at 8 pm, except for the February 17 matinee, which is at 2 pm.