University Theater’s Theater, which has taken place on the first Friday and Saturday of each quarter since 2009, demonstrates the immense, unfettered theatrical talent of the College’s student body. Six teams of writers, directors, actors, and designers come together in only 24 hours to produce six new and never-to-be-seen-again plays based on titles inspired by a certain theme. This quarter, all the titles were inspired by the song “Year 3000” by the Jonas Brothers.
The first play of Theater, this year’s moniker, began as a well-staged and well-acted production on the common suffering experienced in line at the DMV. Instead of sticking with the banal, however, 10 a.m. at the DMV transformed into a larger story involving the manhunt of a hitman. The second play, Fool’s Mate, was one of the funniest and most well-written pieces of the night. One of the most memorable characters of the plays emerged from this piece: the two-sided, “good cop, bad cop” Delivery/DiGiorno. The character portrayed the absurdity of common tropes in the murder mystery genre as the play unraveled the murder in a chess team. This was followed by The Brothers J., a comedy about weed. Filled with wordplay and jokes about such double meanings, the play contained some of the funniest moments of the evening.
This quarter’s Theater also included more solemn material: The play on Charlie Hebdo was dense with content and cultural commentary. It left me wanting just a little more length to provide more time for the message and depth of its ambitions to be realized. The penultimate play, Save Your Receipts, began with a focus on surveillance and transformed into a satirical look at vengeful ghost stories. It was one of the most well-performed productions of the evening, with full commitment from actors who were deft and comfortable with their lines. The final play, An Honest Sales Call, concluded the night with a coming-of-age, magical realism story about a girl with synesthesia. The writing was engaging and the set and technical design was also very interesting. It ended with a transition into the song “Year 3000,” signaling the end of the plays.
For future Theater plays, the curators are considering expanding their current curation responsibilities by providing assistance with the writing process to ensure the plays have more cohesive emotional tones. Nonetheless, Theater was most striking for the diverse directions in which its writers grasped their pieces. Cops, ghosts, and murderers occupied the stage; a satirical, tongue-in-cheek comedy romp about weed was immediately followed by a somber piece surrounding the police brutality after the Charlie Hebdo attacks. Although some of the plays could have been shortened or otherwise streamlined, they were nonetheless impressive in light of the short timeframe in which they were produced.
University Theater’s upcoming productions include As You Like It, Next to Normal, and Peter and the Starcatcher. More information is available at arts.uchicago.edu.