DramaLab Previews

Last Friday lacked the usual blaze of theatrical energy induced by the widely-attended DramaLabs. However, there is no need to despair. DramaLabs are back this week with three spectacular shows that will be sure to make up for the lost time. “Night Visits” “Night Visits,” written by Simon Fill and directed by Will Adams ’11, is an endearing parable of love, loss and mystery that breaks the generic drama lab mold with its serious theme. The play recounts the tale of a harried doctor’s memorable encounter with his last patient of the day. Tom Pitnick, played by veteran actor Charles Horner ’12, is an exhausted doctor running on his last drops of dry wit as Nurse Liz, played by Marilyn Harris ’11 informs him of his last patient. Through a brief but meaningful exchange between Dr. Pitnik and Nurse Liz, the audience discovers that this day is the one-year anniversary of Tom’s wife’s death. Harris expertly captures the empathetic nature of Nurse Liz as she urges the doctor to confide in her regarding his loss, but to no avail. Harris said, “The doctor is not in a good place, because he obviously has not moved on from his dead wife, and Nurse Liz doesn’t know how to get through to him, but she can’t put her life on hold to help him either.” The tension rises as Nurse Liz leaves the office and his patient, Emily, enters. Rachel Coleman ’10 plays Emily, a middle aged woman who survived a tragic car accident with just a few scrapes and bruises but refuses to leave the hospital without being examined. Her peculiar personality and godlike authority somehow prompt Dr. Pitnik to reveal his pent up agony. The play concludes with his important realization that his wife is like the wind—she is present thought not visible. Depicting the many uncomfortable relationships within this play and establishing the underlying theme of godlike omniscience is daunting, to say the least, but first-time director Adams keeps the action moving seamlessly. Yet at the same time, he skillfully manipulates dramatic silence. Adams said, “Though it took a little more time than expected to come together, I love my actors and think our hard work will pay off.” About his choice to direct such a distinctly dark and enigmatic play, Adams said, “The DramaLabs I always leave thinking about are not the ones that make me laugh, but rather the more serious ones, which make me think.” “Night Visits” will do just that, with its skilled actors and minimalistic set complementing its simple message: never doubt the power of a perfect stranger. “Heads” Director Cat Cleveland ’11 breaks the somber theme of the night with “Heads” by Jon Jory, a witty comedy whose deeper undertones will resonate with many students. Nikita Lamba ’11, Julie Xie ’10 and Katie Benvenuti ’12 make a hilarious trio that perfectly captures the hysterics of a college dorm room. The play begins with Kristin and Margaret, played by Xie and Benvenuti respectively, discussing their dismal financial situations. Interrupting this rather earnest exchange, Rose, played by Lamba, enters as a whirlwind of enthusiastic energy with some juicy news in tow: she found a wallet near her parked Corvette. The wallet belongs to Teddy Lennard, a short, dorky, loner who happens to be the sole heir to a couple billion dollars. Teddy wants someone to love him for who he is rather than how much money he has. Rose is adamantly set on the idea that one of her friends should snatch this prize up and hold on to him, but Kristin and Margaret will not hear of it. Rose tries to convince her financially-desperate friends to give up their notions that they are “strong, independent women.” What will they decide to do at the end? Aside from a directing class she took, Cleveland is also new to DramaLab directing world. Cleveland felt attracted to “Heads” because of its witty dialogue and the subtlety in its message. She thinks that the play deftly tackles the idea of marrying for money, which she said is “something people don’t usually talk about.” A week after Barbara Ehrenreich’s presentation on her book “Nickel and Dimed” at Phillips Academy last week, social class and economic status are certainly hot topics and on the minds of many. While Cleveland did not originally select the play with those thoughts in mind, she is pleased to watch it unfold into a satire of sorts, and if the success of this play depended on a coin toss, I’d bet money on “Heads.” “Labor Day” The evening will end with “Labor Day,” written by Milan Stitt and directed by Jeanine Anderson ’11. Actors David Tylinski ’12 and Cammy Brandfield-Harvey ’11 make a dynamic duo that will be sure to captivate the crowd. The distinctive plot of this play focuses on the strictly verbal interaction between a middle-aged woman, Thea, and a successful Wall Street businessman, Daniel. Thea has already lived a full life and now bides her time with a telescope, whereas Daniel lives in the lap of luxury as a wealthy, young bachelor. One day, Thea makes a call to a payphone that she can see from her high-rise apartment window, and Daniel answers on the other line. Beginning as an awkward conversation between two completely different personalities, the phone call turns into a bonding session of sorts, as both characters begin to talk about their passions. Anderson said, “The most fascinating aspect of this play is that both actors are in a completely isolated setting and experience no actual physical interaction. They can’t even look at each other. I have to constantly remind them not to make eye contact.” The three-time director said that she chose “Labor Day” for the script especially, and she loves challenging her capable actors to rely on their use of inflection and body language rather than traditional blocking. The short play concludes rather ambiguously when Thea and Daniel realize that their strange predicament is impossible to handle. In a burst of rashness, Thea hangs up the phone after which waves of regret wash over her. She realizes that Daniel had become more than just a random encounter to her, and a game of phone tag ensues. A peculiar rendering of what happens when one person calls another at random, “Labor Day” represents a peculiar fantasy that we’ve all considered at some point or another. Why is this DramaLab titled “Labor Day?” You’ll have to come and see for yourself.