The 14th Grade Players performed their first major production of the year last weekend, the Welcome Back One-Acts, with a pinch of insanity and a whole lot of death.
The first act in the lineup was “The Worker” – directed by sophomore Mackenzie Garrity – which takes a comedic look at the relationship between a 1980s-era husband and wife. The husband, played by sophomore Julian Sacca-Schaeffer, is a workaholic who lives in a world in which being fired is the equivalent of being executed.
As played by sophomore Alex Lowcher, the wife’s storyline adds to the dystopian mood with her desire for a child pushing her to care for a baby doll as if it were real, because her husband insists that there will be “no children in the house.”
“The Worker” was humorous and awkward, yet at the same time had an underlying sorrow to it that pervaded the entire show.
The second act, “Naomi in the Living Room,” directed by senior Zephi Friel, had the audience members on the edge of their seats with its unpredictability. Naomi, played by sophomore Leah Holstein, is an elderly woman with a bizarre sense of reality. Despite her son and his wife’s sorrow over the loss of their five children, Naomi is alternately welcoming and degrading, especially to daughter-in-law Johnna, played by freshman Gracie Bayliss.
Of her character, Holstein said that it was not all that difficult to act crazy.
“You have to let go of your inhibitions, especially with the orgasm on the couch,” Holstein said of a particular scene where Naomi feigns an organism on her couch.
Holstein added that the most difficult part of the role was playing an old woman, saying that director Friel kept telling her during rehearsal, “You’re sixty-five, you can’t do that!”
The last act, “Bang, Bang, You’re Dead,” directed by sophomore Edward Churchill, was the finale of the production and tackled a much more difficult subject – school shootings. A freshman boy, Josh, played by graduate student Mark Bychowski, is locked in a jail cell surrounded by the spirits of five of his victims from a school shooting, all dressed in black.
The emotional performance led the audience through the events that led up to the shooting, in an attempt to find out why a nice student would commit such an act.
“You eventually become numb,” Churchill said about directing such an emotionally intense act.
Freshman Jillian Harclerode played the role of Emily in the final play, who is a close friend of the shooter and one of his victims. She agreed with Churchill and added, “It was a real challenge. you have to find a way to un-numb yourself.”
With insane old women and school shooters, 14th Grade Players’ one-acts definitely proved that the theater group is anything but average. But the threat of execution and the sorrow of lost loved ones don’t take away from what the 14th Grade Players are trying to convey.
“14th is the most unique,” co-executive producer Josh Benjamin said in an e-mail. “We accept anyone and everyone, and our only goal is to have fun.”