This weekend, the Classical Entertainment Society—a lesser-known theater group on campus—will be putting on its third annual CESFest despite being in its 11th year as an RSO. I had the opportunity to sit in on a dress rehearsal to see its members in action. This year’s show features four unique, entertaining, and at times interactive performances that fill the intimate space of the FXK Theater in Reynolds Club.
With the catchphrase, “Four shows, one stage,” CES Fest 2015 brings together an eclectic collection of one-act shows. As a whole, the four pieces run about three hours, including an intermission. Part One runs approximately one hour; Part Two, one hour and 40 minutes. Each piece offers something special, but if you can only make it to one half, the group offers a discount price ticket option for just the first or second act of the show. I present, below, the evening’s menu.
The first course begins with Magnifique: A Murder! - The Mystery: The Dinner: The Play, a work that’s part play, part improvisation. It’s the brainchild of director Andrew Mao and features a large and talented cast that put on creative, funny, and believable performances. What happens when a rich French man is murdered at a party, leaving behind massive jewels, a drunk wife, some pretentious academics, and a boy-crazy daughter? I honestly couldn’t tell you with any certainty that it will unfold the same way when you see it. So I really mean it when I say: You’ll have to see it to find out. The second show in the first half is Simoom, a brief but dramatic play by August Strindberg and directed by JT O’Connor. The show title is in Arabic, alluding to a desert storm with strong winds which excite the play’s characters into a wild hallucinatory frenzy.
The second course begins with an original radio play adaptation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein by Ivy Malao and Niki Chen. The actors tell the tale with impressively emotive and distorted voices from microphones at the front of the stage, while another performer creates sound effects mimicking the ocean, footsteps, and other noises much like the radio tales that predated television. The final work, directed by M.C. Steffen, is An Apology for the Course and Outcome of Certain Events Delivered by Doctor John Faustus on This His Final Evening. Written by Mickle Maher, the work is a quirky and unexpectedly powerful piece of the ramblings and witty comments of one bizarre man in the last hour before his death. He talks to and with the audience, pulling it into the poignant and strange world of Dr. John Faustus, all while his unnervingly still and silent servant sits on a piano.
Amoretta Cockerham, a fourth-year TAPS and anthropology double major, plays the servant Mephistopheles in Faustus. Having worked with both University Theater, the more well-known theater group on campus, and CES, she was able to explain some of the differences. According to her, UT has ready access to a lot of technology and space as well as professional and monetary support from the TAPS department that allows them to accomplish some difficult tasks with a certain amount of ease. CES, on the other hand, is entirely a work of love. “Creative problem solving has been important,” she said with a laugh. “If you have a strong interest in classic [works] or producing work independently in a less structured environment, then it’s worth [it].” This year’s festival encapsulates their goal of continuing to give life to classic and individual works in a performance just as quirky as it is profound.
Friday, February 20 at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, February 21 at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., FXK Theater, third floor Reynolds Club.
Tickets for the full show are $7 in advance or $9 at the door. The half-show tickets are $5 in advance or $6 at the door.