REVIEW: Louise Heck-Rabi One Act Festival offers three distinct student plays

Reviewed by Patty Nolan, The Examiner.

Click HERE to read the review on The Examiner’s website.

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Posted March 1, 2013

Zyle Cook as Sandy, Joe Sfair as Lou, Dan Miller as Felix
Photo: Felix Li
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If you are interested in new plays, new playwrights and the emerging theatre scene, don’t miss WSU’s Heck-Rabi One Act Festival. This is an annual showcase of three one-act plays composed by student playwrights, performed by student actors and directed by, yes, fellow students.

The Louise Heck-Rabi Dramatic Playwriting One Act Festival has been an annual event since 2000, a program designed to encourage young playwrights to submit their original works in hopes of having them produced. Each year, six or seven semi-finalists are chosen out of all submissions. The plays are then read at a Workshop, where they are critiqued by judges. Three finalists win a scholarship as well as the opportunity to produce their play in front of a live audience. Each winning playwright has the invaluable opportunity to work with a student director and student performers to realize their productions on the stage.

Opening last night, February 28, and running through March 9, 2013, audience members at the Studio Theatre were treated to a diverse selection of winning plays – spanning the abstract, the inevitable, and a haunted theatrical production. All three plays are performed in a single evening with a short intermission between each — a three-course dramatic meal that is most satisfying. Making it even more interesting is that all of the winning playwrights are also actors whom you may have seen perform on the Hilberry stage.

This year’s selected student plays include: “Hurts So Good,” by Carollette Phillips and Edmund Alyn Jones, (who appeared together in “Richard III” as Lady Anne and Richard); “A New Play by Neil Simon,” by Dave Toomey (“Frank Langella’s Cyrano”); and “Chiseled,” by Laura Heikkinen (“Summer and Smoke”).

“Chiseled,” by Laura Heikkinen opens the show and is the most abstract of the three pieces. A sculptor encounters a young woman at a gallery displaying his newest work – and they are inexplicable drawn together. In a series of staccato scenes, we watch their relationship unfold and his creative work wax and wane until we are not sure which is art and which is artifice. This abstract piece is open to much interpretation and is sure to stimulate conversation regarding what we “thought” happened.

Directed by Sharayah Kay Johnson, the cast for this play features Hannah Butcher as Model, Denzel Clark as Dan, Kristen Dawn-Dumas as Cee, Tayler Jones as Em/Guest 1, Bryauna Perkins as Elle, Laith Salim as Jay and Brad Smith as Guest 2. Amanda Mahoney is the Stage Manager.

Dave Toomey’s “A New Play by Neil Simon” is a hilarious backstage play with a sinister twist. Lou, a theatre veteran and director, has returned to his hometown to help out best friend Sandy, who has sunk everything into a decrepit theatre and the production of a new play by renowned playwright Neil Simon. The trick is, the play doesn’t sound anything like Neil Simon – with themes of demonic repossession and grisly murder. The ill-fated production takes a turn for the worse when disembodied voices and shadows haunt the theatre. You may scream … you’ll certainly laugh.

“Hurts So Good,” by Carollette Phillips and Edmund Alyn Jones, drops us into the middle of a story between two people who clearly have a history. Are they friends? Lovers? Both? Ultimately, this is a moving little slice of life about complicated relationships and the eternal struggle to know if what feels right is really all wrong.

“Hurts So Good” stars James Jordan and Alexis Mabry under the direction of Zee Bricker; Michael Hallberg is the Stage Manager.

It’s always fun to watch students in action in the intimate Studio Theatre (downstairs from the Hilberry Theatre) and these young actors hold up to close scrutiny. This trio of unrelated plays makes for a most entertaining evening – put it on your calendar.

Tickets are a bargain at $5 and are available by calling the Hilberry Theatre Box Office at (313) 577-2972, purchasing online, or by visiting the box office at 4743 Cass Avenue on the corner of Hancock.

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