The Big City in a Little Classroom: Two Theater Classrooms Feature New York

The theater classroom last Sunday served as host to two productions that were well rehearsed and well attended – two components that made for two outstanding performances. In a theater classroom doubleheader, Ariel Gold ’04 and Katie Nadworny ’05 directed two short plays: New York Actor, by John Guare, and Long Ago and Far Away, by David Ives, respectively. New York Actor, the first classroom performed on Sunday, was outstanding, considering its large cast and a postponement of the performance date. The story of four New York actors all trying to make it on Broadway was simple and light. Set in a New York restaurant, the show opens with a commercial featuring the characters of Stephen Zehring ’03 and Alex Colaianni ’03. They are the only actors in the restaurant who are actually getting work, despite the commercial’s lack of artistic worth. A fellow actor, played by Sam Beattie ’03, has just returned from Los Angeles after being cast for a TV show called Lawyer from Another Planet, which also lacks the artistic integrity for which the actors strive. The actor’s friends support him despite his longing to be on stage. The fourth actor sitting at the bar was played by Stephen Sherrill ’05. In his theatrical debut here at PA, Sherrill made a wonderful impression on the theater community through his portrayal of a cynical performer slightly jealous of Beattie’s successes. The plot continued with a theater critic and his girlfriend, played by James Mendez-Hodes ’04 and Dounia Sidki ’03, walking into the restaurant. Sherrill approaches them, thanking the critic for the gracious review he had written about him years ago. A fight soon ensues, with the critic accusing Sherrill of stealing his girlfriend’s purse. Beattie finds out that he has been booted from the TV show, as Colaianni and Zehring happily look on, with their commercial reappearing in the end of the play. In the play’s conclusion, the serious dialogue of the supposedly cultured theater professionals is ironically reduced to an “adorable” level by a group of out-of-towners. New York Actor was originally intended to go up two weeks ago, but because of an unforeseen blizzard on President’s Day, Gold was detained in Florida with the Fidelio Society and was unable to make it back to school in time to prepare for the upcoming show. Although the performance was pushed back by a week, the quality did not suffer. “With such a large cast and so much action in the play, there was a lot to coordinate,” said Gold. “But I think the cast handled it extremely well. I’m very happy with how it turned out.” New York Actor was Gold’s first shot at directing here at PA. She is also co-directing the “Broadway Revue” with Michelle Easton ’04, a tap dance show to be presented early next term. The ten-minute show flowed very smoothly, with no breaks in dialogue or action. The classroom stage was filled with both experienced and new actors alike. Sherrill commented on his PA debut, saying, “It was a very eye-opening experience. I got to see the kind of talent this school really has, and I was very impressed.” So was the audience, judging from its enthusiasm and great attendance. Following New York Actor, Nadworny’s Long Ago and Far Away took to the stage. A stark contrast to Gold’s play, Long Ago was very philosophical and dark. Also taking place in New York, the play opened with Laura, played by Julie Min ’05, and Gus, played by Matt Brennan ’05, in their bare apartment, stripped of everything in anticipation of the couple’s move to a new abode. Laura realizes for the first time that she exists, that she is alive and part of something bigger than what she has known. Her husband, Gus, is still the same guy he was yesterday, his eyes unopened — a fact that she almost resents. After he leaves, Jack enters. Jack, played by Chris Zegel ’05, is a mysterious character. He lived in the apartment 30 years before and has come back to take one last look. He and Laura share a connection on a deeper level, something she and Gus never had. Suddenly, she is transported back in time to the apartment 30 years before. The landlady, played by Aviva Stahl ’05, enters and interrogates Laura as to whether she is going to take the apartment or not. Laura, remembering Jack and the connection they shared, says yes and attempts to make it just as he would have wanted it. Gus returns to find not Laura, but Jack in the apartment. Jack hands Gus a letter, tells him to “give it to someone,” and promptly ends his life with a gunshot. Long Ago and Far Away was Nadworthy’s third time directing a classroom this year, her previous two being Sure Thing also by David Ives and Just Be Frank by Caroline Williams. All the actors did superbly in the play, especially Zegel, whose tall stature contrasted sharply and well with the rest of the cast. Min and Brennan were very believable playing a married couple, and Stahl was flawless in her portrayal of the common woman trying to get by in a harsh world. Said Nadworny, the cast was “always going beyond my expectations. I didn’t have to crack down on them for anything. They knew their lines on time, and made my job easy.” Overall, fabulous acting and directing made both theatre classrooms enjoyable to watch. New York Actor was quite a success for first-time director Gold, and Long Ago and Far Away confirmed Nadworny’s proficiency in directing. Actors in both plays did remarkably well, and it proved to be yet another evening of impressive theater here at PA.