The RPI Players will be presenting their Spring Shorts this weekend. The show consists of four one-acts that are not particularly related—the first three are different takes on drama, and the last is a comedy, to end the night on a happy note. I was given the opportunity to sit in on their Tuesday rehearsal for an early preview. I was greeted by director Jeremy Feldman ’16, who explained that the actual show will be in Mother’s Wine Emporium; their equipment and venue was not fully prepared, but the actors still had a lot to offer. I was given a water bottle, and I found myself in a front-and-only-row seat. It was nice to watch the Players again (I covered a show once during Navigating Rensselaer and Beyond), though I didn’t have a friend with me this time either. Here is your fair warning: if you don’t like spoilers, stop reading now!
The director called lights up, and the first act, Heart of Hearing, began. The general tone of this act was rather strange. It details a girl, Angie, calling a boy, Josh; it is gradually revealed that they have a strange dynamic, owing to the fact that they only occasionally call each other; there is a palpable silence that reflects the distance a relationship like theirs is destined to have. However, I liked that the actors gradually move across the stage to embrace and kiss, physically representing the intimacy that they share nonetheless. They reminisce about old times, until Josh touches upon the harshness of reality, and Angie reminds him that he also has a girlfriend in reality; they end the call with Josh promising to call her later. The revelation that they are each other’s old “sweatpants” is certainly dramatic: they will always be lingering in the back, but only appreciated from time to time, and never enough.
In the second act, I Dream Before I Take the Stand, a woman yields to the interrogations of a man in a suit. I could feel my stomach tighten and my brow furrow as I felt the stress alongside her. I did think that her consternation was a little forced sometimes, as her breathy, protesting scoffs came off with weak sincerity. But the man continues to interrogate her, even about the tightness and scantiness of her clothing. It is blatant by this point that he is emphasizing her sexual objectification, playing on the traditional sense of gender roles and female appeal. The constant rigidity of both of their characters (her uptight expression and stuttering and his torrent of assertions) makes the viewer question who is right, in a play on the recent fight for women’s rights and the injustice in rape cases. Toward the end, he starts to describe things as ‘sexy,’ and as he holds onto the chair behind her and yells, it becomes clear that—even if she was not the victim in the interrogated situation—she is now being victimized. I initially thought it would be nice if the actors varied their tones for more emotion, but in retrospect, their consistency provided a strong parallel to the implied situation. When he is finally satisfied, he asks her to start from the beginning, and we are left with the knowledge that he will continue until she is broken.
The third act, In the Garden, was written by the Players’ Jocelyn Griser ’16. An angry woman storms over to a man, and asks, “how could you?” He responds that he wanted to make her equal to him, and that he wants to be with her. At first glance, it seems like a typical reconciliation between lovers, but when the man says, “I love you, Eve,” we realize that it is much more. Eve asks if she deserves to be damned, and the man says that she deserves to be complete, and to be with whoever she wants; if that means Adam, then so be it. She kisses him and confesses her love, but they ultimately face the fact that she will be with Adam. As the lights fade on stage, a voice is heard saying, “Morning star, my son, you have sinned.” I thought this act was particularly powerful; it was short enough to leave the audience reeling, but it had enough substance for consideration. Not only is it a reinterpretation of a traditional story, per recent trends, it also provokes a reassessment of traditional values and beliefs, both biblical and secular.
The fourth and final act, Sure Thing, was a comedy meant to lift the mood after three emotional and thought-provoking scripts. Betty is reading in a cafe, when Bill approaches her and asks if the seat next to her is taken; she says it is. Every subsequent time they have a negative interaction, a bell is rung to reset the conversation to a prior point, and they banter back and forth. Once again, the Players modified the script for RPI. Bill says that he went to college at Union, and then not at all, before Betty is satisfied when he says he went to Harvard. There is some delightful overlap between replays that catches us by surprise. Finally, at the end, they strike upon a series of similarities, including the hatred of brussels sprouts. When they confirm that they would like to have three children (two girls and a boy who go to Harvard, Vassar, and Brown), the act ends.
I thought that the actors did impressively well, especially considering that this was a practice. I would’ve liked a bit more volume, but the actual venue will be much smaller. The only issue I noticed was that the actors had small memory lapses in the fourth act, but it’s a long script, and they should have it fully memorized by the weekend.
When practice was over, I asked Feldman a few questions. Many shows leave viewers confused by an end that is open for interpretation, so I asked if there was any particular message he wanted to send. He mentioned that this production is unique because lots of the gaps are left to be filled in by the actors. There is no answer, so things are still up for interpretation.
In short, the Players’ Spring Shorts were quite nice, and they will be free. If you don’t have plans, drop by, and they just might convince you to donate the suggested $5. I know that I’ll be there—with friends for once—and I hope to see you there!