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McGill Drama Festival showcases all that McGill student theatre has to offer

Arts & Entertainment/Theatre by

For thirty years, Players’ Theatre has played host to the annual McGill Drama Festival. The 2018 edition featured six student-written, -directed, -produced, and -performed plays, with three running each night. Tackling themes ranging from religious fanaticism to quarter-life crises, these plays exhibited an energetic, bold diversity representative of Montreal student theatre as a whole.

Brunch: The Musical

Directed by Harry Skinner, U2 Music Jazz Performance

Sophie Panzer

If the word brunch typically conjures an image of a group of middle-aged soccer moms getting tipsy off mimosas, prepare to look at the topical culinary craze in a whole new light after viewing this hilarious musical. Written by Vitta Morales, U2 Music, Brunch tells the story of a kooky kitchen staff as they attempt to navigate dreams, desire, and heartbreak, all while keeping on top of the weekend rush. The characters, based on real co-workers Morales has worked with over the years, are as vibrant as the musical numbers. “Oh, Brunch!” playfully bemoans the popularity of a meal that is “too late to be breakfast and too early to be lunch, the bane of the culinary world!”  Rob Dow, U0 Cognitive Science, is hilarious as womanizing sous-chef Mike in “Call Me Big Papa In The Sack.” Victoria Stevens, U0 Music Education, shines as the cook Robin in numbers like “It’s Easier As Friends,” which celebrates the power of friendships among people who have zero interest in getting to know each other outside of work. Fans of song, dance, eggs benedict, kitchen utensil-sword fights, and navigating quarter-life crises will find this production nothing short of delightful.  

Immaculate Contraception

Directed by Steven Greenwood (2nd Year English PhD)

Sophie Panzer

Set in an evangelical church bathroom plastered with posters bearing slogans like “Resist the urgin’, stay a virgin,” Immaculate Contraception mocks the hypocrisy of religious fanaticism. Written by Concordia first year creative writing student Faith Pare, the play centers around a young churchgoer, Evelyn (Emma Broderick, U1 Political Science), played by U1 Political Science student Emma Broderick, who discovers she might be pregnant just before she is supposed to take a pledge of chastity. She calls in David (Jacob Hutnyk, U2 Computer Science), an excommunicated choir boy, to help her find a pregnancy test. Mary Looney, U0 Arts, steals the show as the “Angel Piss”-swigging Pastor Murphy, an elderly church authority with a salacious secret. The play’s rapid-fire sex jokes and biblical allusions blur the boundaries between the spiritual and the profane:  “You should have thought of daddy before you did the nasty in the confession booth!” David chastises Evelyn. And yet, this comedy offers more than just well-timed dick jokes—David’s rather secular attempts at prayer (“Dear God, and Associates”) and Evelyn’s fears of excommunication are genuinely moving. The Immaculate Contraception is sure to leave audience members reflecting on the meaning of spirituality in between bouts of laughter.

Suzanne

Directed by Thomas Fix (U3 Computer Science)

Avleen Mokha

Using a three-person cast and an unpolished living room as its setting, Suzanne has a very straightforward premise: One rainy evening, Emma (Francesca Scotti-Goetz, U2 Sociology and Communications) has an expected guest show up at her doorstep. Sophie, her guest, (Elan Schwartz, U3 Philosophy) is an organ recipient of Emma’s husband, Alex (Nick Fontaine), who died in car crash. The conversation between the two women taps into the complexity and stubbornness of mourning. The writing (Jonathan Dick, University of Toronto – Literature), with its overlapping dialogue and sustained pauses, allows you to engage with the characters very quickly. Thomas Fix’s directing is outstanding, especially for a debut. Fix connects flashbacks and the present time by having them play out in the space, allowing viewers to see Emma as a grieving woman stuck between past and present. Suzanne is one of the more heartfelt works of theatre shown in a while. Do not miss this one.

Ground Control

Directed by Huxley Anjilvel (U1 Economics)

Avleen Mokha

Ground Control is your run-of-the-mill space comedy about a doomed spaceship. While it does contain romance, betrayal, and space pirates, there are too many elements present to pull off a satisfying ending in such a short amount of time. Ground Control follows a crew of astronauts in denial about the fact that they are heading straight into a black hole, instead choosing to focus on mundanities like routine inspections and first dates. While some jokes fall flat, the script (Otman Benchekroun, U3 Electrical Engineering) does have many funny, well-delivered moments. Anastasia Krutchinsky is charming as Elena Hershey, leader of the team of astronauts. Captain Kinder Bueno 2 (Ian Kaye, U0 Arts), the space alien antagonist, has a very memorable stage presence. While Ground Control is well-paced, the final resolution is a bit too sudden and jarring. There’s not enough character development to make the story stick with viewers, but the slapstick comedy is sure to make them laugh.

My Children

Directed by Saeesh Mangwani (U1 Environment and Urban Systems)

Leo Stillinger

Animated by Lucas Amato’s (Concordia, 3rd year Playwriting) thought-provoking script, My Children is a fascinating dark comedy, that probes questions of heroism and ethics in the modern world. Three different actors play Pinnacle, a retired superhero with a dark past.

At the beginning of the play, members of the audience were invited to walk onto the living-room set and examine the strange pile of books amassed in the centre. They were suddenly interrupted by a shout: “Get out of my house!”

The audience members were chased back to their seats by a wild-eyed actor, Nick Vecchione (U0 Arts), who, as Pinnacle, proceeded to address the audience with unsettling directness: “How did you get in here?”

This startling set piece marked the beginning of a memorable, 15-minute monologue by Vecchione, who ranted, raved, and conferred directly with bemused audience members. Driven by Vecchione’s unstable magnetism, it was an effective beginning, roping the audience in immediately.

At a certain point, Vecchione departed to be replaced by a new actress (Clara Saliba, U0 Arts) in the same role, turning his character’s multi-sided personality into a literal facet of the play. Saliba was later replaced by Luke Horton (U2 Political Science). In contrast to Vecchione’s charisma, Saliba brought a sensitivity, and Horton carried his role with a manic humour. It is the performances of these three actors that elevate My Children to something truly enjoyable.

Pinot Noir

Directed by Samantha Szabo

Leo Stillinger

Pinot Noir begins as so many detective stories do: A witty male detective receives a visit from one of his attractive informants with information about a new case. Quickly, however, a twist emerges to distinguish the play from its 1950s counterparts—the detective is openly gay.

This wonderful ensemble comedy, an ode to the film noir genre, tells a believable and absorbing story of murder while keeping the audience laughing at every turn. Samantha Szabo, a first time director, has mastered the comic timing necessary for performing in a small theatre, and Steven Greenwood’s script does an artful job of balancing suspense and entertainment with serious reflections on homosexuality in pre-Stonewall North America.

The play is truly a team effort, and each character contributes memorable moments. The star of the show, however, is Alex Czegledy (U2 Management), in the role of the detective Jason Sharp. His deadpan deliveries and tongue-in-cheek bravado provide belly laughs at each line. He at once embodies the hyper-masculine detective of film noir and takes the piss out of it. Pinot Noir, a play which lovingly plays tribute to the genre while poking fun at it.

 

Players’ Theatre Drama Festival continues on Feb. 14 at 7 p.m. and Feb. 17 at 2 p.m. in Players’ Theatre, 3rd floor of SSMU, 3600 Rue McTavish. Tickets are $6 for students and seniors and $10 general admission. Tickets are available online at playerstheatre.ca/buy-tickets or at the door.

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