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Sunday, December 10, 2023


Honors College students show off theater talents

The Honors College Club Theater troupe closed out its three-show run with a rousing performance to a packed house in the auditorium at Faith Lutheran Church on Saturday.

The club, formed in 2006 by Katelyn Halpern, is a haven for non-theater majors who still wish to participate in the performing arts and has solicited short plays written and performed by students, utilizing the theater’s members as actors, tech crews and anything else the organization needs.

This year, six plays were selected and performed. The first play, “Do Sea Monkeys Dream of Electric Puffer Fish,” written by biology freshman Lindsey Bruel, had the attitude similar to the “Rocky Horror Picture Show.”

It was a hodgepodge of literary and pop culture allusions strung together with constant breaking of the fourth wall and self-referential meta-humor that was clever, but perhaps not as clever as intended.

The acting was gleefully unnecessary and madcap. The play was an upbeat romp, but a bit of a mess altogether.

“Illusions,” the second play written by history and philosophy sophomore Olivia Macias, revolved around an aborted suicide and an unlikely friendship that forms as a result.

The humor here strives to be dark and edgy, but isn’t written pithily or profoundly enough to carry that kind of weight with the highlight of the dialogue being a “Fifty Shades of Grey” reference.

The troupe then performed “Kentucky Jones and the Enchanted Eye of Dawn,” written by
history sophomore Michiko McMahon and Macias, whose title character was a send-up of the Indiana Jones mythos.

“Kentucky” might have been deliberately obnoxious, but no less so for the intentionality. The highlight of the show was a Nazi Zombies reference — the cast had to be sure to throw in an applause break so the laughs wouldn’t step on the lines of dialogue that followed.

There was a brief intermission followed by “Timmy the T-Rex,” written by English freshman Jacob Wagner, which was a solid play from start to finish. Creative writing freshman Josh Hundl played the eponymous dinosaur, and his flair for physical comedy was tremendous. The crisp, energetic scene changes and flawless blocking moved the play along at a rapid clip, and Wagner’s turn as Timmy’s therapist was an absolute delight, sharply articulate and had a surreal kinesthetic.

The fifth production, “Trust Me,” written by business sophomore Kaitlyn Redmond, opens with a standoff between two handgun brandishing ex-lovers and numerous expletives.

The narrative conceit — a black widow story in which the female protagonist is compelled to shoot the men she dates — is actually provocative and interesting, but wasn’t executed subtly and whimsically enough to give it the story and characters it deserved.

Finally, the evening’s events wound down with “Seconds Anyone?” written by Hundl, a comedic endeavor that addressed sex, relationships and camaraderie.

While always quick and witty, the substance of the conversations never raised above a Seth Rogen-esque level of raunch, and the actors seemed to revel in blue turns that were discouragingly misogynistic and backwards.

Still, the protagonists felt real and relatable. The debate regarding a basketball analogy used to explain the concept of sloppy seconds is reminiscent of Kevin Smith and the best moments from “Clerks.”

The production suffered from the venue, which was hastily arranged at the 11th hour when the original venue backed out of its commitment. The ambient noise from the air conditioner made some impact on every play, and the lighting was generally poor, but one has to factor in the unfavorable turn with location.

All of the plays had moments of clarity, poignancy or wit, but the pieces after the intermission were stronger.

The acting was somewhat inconsistent as one might expect from non-majors, but there were several inspiring and noteworthy performances, especially from Hundl and Yelamo, who stole the show with their sharp, engaging performance.

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