Last Wednesday during Navigating Rensselaer & Beyond, I dropped by the RPI Playhouse to see what the college’s only on-campus theater group, the RPI Players, was up to. There were several freshmen on the stage painting, preparing decorations, and making gels. Being the layman that I am, I had to ask them what gels are. It turns out gels are colored sheets of cellophane, cut to size and secured over the stage lights to adjust the lighting for each scene. They were very passionate and knowledgeable in the subject; Samm Katcher ’19 read a book about it, and Nick Karalexis ’19 had prior experience with some really good designers. In contrast, Jasper Boland ’19 said that the NRB event wasn’t his first choice—but out of several hundred freshmen, it is to be expected that several will not receive their top choices. Boland said he was enjoying the technical work nonetheless, since he likes making things work.
On Thursday night, I attended the show to witness the product of their hard work. They had three acts lined up for the night: The Nine Worst Break-ups Ever; Man, Woman, Flower; and Ten Ways to Survive a Zombie Apocalypse.
In The Nine Worst Break-ups Ever, Katie is devastated that her boyfriend has secretly been dating another girl. He wants to go to prom with that girl instead of her, so she breaks up with him. When she proclaims that this is the worst break-up ever, a woman named Eve, who works for a magical business, pops up to show her the nine worst break-ups ever and prove her wrong.
The play was thoroughly engaging—Eve made a grand entrance from the back of the room, and small details such as Eve and Katie making eye rolls and comments on the break-ups kept the audience’s attention moving. The scenarios were balanced between being emotional and relatable (I’ve totally been dumped through courier service). As it turns out, the worst break-up of all time was when Eve was dumped through a musical theater performance with backup singers, so she took up this job to ensure that others don’t wallow in misery the way she did. I thought this was a nice touch, because she encourages Katie to talk to a boy named Charlie, who says his break-up was the worst. Of course, Eve pops out again, but the viewer is left to decide whether Eve selflessly puts her past behind her and becomes a matchmaker for individuals like Katie and Charlie, or has become jaded and enjoys daisy chaining love interests.
The second act was Man, Woman, Flower. Unfortunately, I couldn’t hear the actors well enough to fully understand it. I discerned enough from watching and from snippets of dialogue to know that it was comedy, but it was not enough to perceive any further depth that may have been written into the script. It’s a shame, because the show otherwise went on without a hitch.
The last act, Ten Ways to Survive a Zombie Apocalypse, was quite an appropriate closing act if I do say so myself. As with The Nine Worst Break-ups Ever, it was based on a list of amusing scenarios. Both the audience and cast had fun with this act, which didn’t take itself seriously at all—it started out with the narrators describing the characters’ journey before degrading into tongue-in-cheek banter between the narrators and the characters. I looked up the script, and was delighted to find that the Players had suitably adjusted it for a special touch. Somewhere along the line, the male narrator suggested the nonexistence of zombies and several other fantastical ideas, including a 4.0 GPA at Rensselaer. The Players sent the audience into the night with one last laugh when the female narrator asked if there’s a real way to survive the zombie apocalypse:
Narrator 1: There is a way. Love! In the name of love, anything
is possible. As long as you believe. Steps closer to her. What if I
was the last guy on earth?
Narrator 2: I hate zombies. Walks away.
In the end, it was an amazing program considering that it was prepared in a handful of hours during NRB. The crew even had to deal with technical difficulties, which were handled so well, audience members were likely unaware of them. The a cappella acts between sets were a wonderful compliment; having varied performances made it acceptably comfortable to sit in place for an hour.
I certainly can’t wait to see what kind of performances the dedicated team of RPI Players puts on—going to one of their shows is now on my college bucket list. If anyone plans to go as well, let me know so that I can have friends the next time around! Visit http://www.players.rpi.edu for more information.