Augustana laughs into summer with Funny Shorts
Kristine Andres, Natalia McGill, Gavin Wilkes, Sharnelle Umphrey, and Sammy Lowe provided a night full of laughs with Funny Shorts. Supplied
The senior class of University of Alberta-Augustana drama program ended their season with a laugh.
In particular Sammy Lowe and Gavin Wilkes, who are graduating this semester, ended their respective runs on the Theatre Centre's stage in hilarious fashion with Billy Aronson's Funny Shorts – a series of six comedic offerings – this past weekend.
They were joined by Natalia Mcgill, Kristine Andres, Sharnelle Umphrey, Daniel Wiltzen, Bennett Wilson, Raegan Mines, and Elysia Marchand for evening shows from Thursday to Saturday as they took an alternative look at the human psyche and condition.
The six short plays, directed by Kevin Sutley, were pulled from a larger collection of work, but with a small ensemble, the half dozen selections worked well for the cast.
"A show like this gives them a chance to show different parts of themselves in different characters," said Sutley.
The troupe opened with Light Years, which examined the angst an neuroticism of the first day on campus as students met their roommates for the first time. This is also a big day for many as it represents a freedom that most have not had before as they move away from home for the first time. Their conflicting thoughts of independence and self discovery, however, were all brought to a halt in the final scene as tragedy strikes.
The second play, Night Rules, looked at competitive parenting. The play focuses on a pair of young married couples as they begin by arguing about whether or not it is ok to run to a crying baby that they are trying to get to sleep. Eventually the relationships break down over the issues, and then individually flock to echo-chamber view points.
The third play was the best of the grouping. Reunions focused on the braggadocious climate of a high school reunion. The short focuses on a group of classmates who reconnect in the school gym, each one trying to out do the other in their accomplishments. It starts out simple as with someone who has changed careers, someone who is successful in their career, a parent whose world is their kids, and eventually moves on to the absurd. Someone who found success as a pirate, but strangely not as much success as another classmate in the high-seas career, a giraffe, a warlock, and the first ever female Santa Claus who inherited the position from her uncle. Each step up the ladder becomes more competitive and over the top, but no one really wants to acknowledge anyone else's success. Instead jealousy and a grass-is-greener sense overtakes the group.
"It's the idea of Facebook in how we like to put all of our amazing life in photos … all of these people are talking about how ridiculously great their life is, that's how it starts," said Sutley. "Then all of these other characters come in …"
The fourth play, Negotiations, was the shortest of the night but was well executed by Umphrey and Andres. It was pretty straightforward in the idea of the art of the negotiation, however, each pass took a right turn as the freelancer and employer talked terms, jumping from wage, to type of currency, to job, to species, to attraction.
The fifth play was a twisted version of Little Red Riding Hood, featuring a woodsman who just wanted to provide for his family, a mother who didn't want to let go of her daughter, Red Riding Hood who was filled with naivety and a desire for something more, a grandmother who just wanted it to end, and a slick-talking wolf who just wanted a meal featuring LRRH.
The final production focused in on the high-pressure, ego-driven world of animated children's television. This segment perhaps jumped the rails the most over the course of the night as the creative staff bickered and backstabbed their way through the launch of a new pilot, eventually devolving into an anger-filled orgy where the only love found was in the end result of the project.
I was laughing all night long. Wilkes shone with his over-the-top, all-too serious rants and soliloquies while Lowe was fantastic usually playing a slightly off-balanced, eccentric.
The stands were packed the night I was there with an engaged crowd, which the cast fed off of.
"When you get an audience that really wants to laugh, it's just that much more exciting and fun," said Sutley. "Tonight it was a great audience, they loved to laugh and you could tell the actors were having so much fun."