Theater  began not with a bang, but with a horrifying conglomeration of noises that played separately, inspiring the writers of the five short plays to be performed that evening. To my horror, this announcement inspired the remnants of my pretentious middle-school self to creep from my sweatshirt. I am delighted to say that Theater  was hilarious, and maybe even more of a national treasure than the giant ball of lint which served as the backdrop of the evening’s first play, Tuba Practice.
The drama opened with a husband (first-year Imogen Sands) and wife (first-year Anahita Gogia) trying to get their two children to appreciate something they have traveled many miles to see. Both are unresponsive, however—especially young Jonathan (first-year Jonathan White), whose tuba is the only force that can rouse him to display even the faintest signs of life. An apocalypse soon puts an end to familial disputes, and now all are forced to face a far more important matter: the demon who has appeared to demand a sacrifice. Johnny stands apart as his family weeps; that soul which has lain dormant for so long flits—now struggles—now bursts forth! Shakespeare himself could not provide the level of pathos with which Johnny offers his beloved tuba to Satan in order to save his family from death. As he toots one last song, one cannot help but realize that the final notes of Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face” are also the final remnants of his former self which, like his music, are forever lost to the gentle winds of time as a result of his sacrifice.
The next play, BSE-I-E-I-O is no less tragic, and, as far as I can tell, like the universe in the movie Cars—only with cows instead of cars and a great peppering of puns. The play opens with an aged Angus Sirloin (first-year Grey Moszkowski), looking back to his encounter with Mad Cow Disease, abbreviated BSE: Bovine something or other (even he cannot recall). The play returns to his youth in which Woodstock, Angus, and Ferdinand the Bull find that one of their friends has gone stark-raving-General-Jack-D.-Ripper-level insane with BSE. Alas, the other cows fall prey to the highly contagious malady as well, and Angus, left defenseless, has no choice, it seems, but to…burn them alive in the barn to prevent the disease from spreading? Holy shit.
But fear not: The sweet hand of The Box soon reaches out to help erase all this pain. This is also coincidentally what the play’s titular box does for Topher Glenn (first-year Justin Saint-Loubert-Bie), Janice Carson (first-year Rosa Glen-Rayner), and Kelsey Frasier (first-year Sasha Diaz), the UPS workers who are transporting it. Instead of reeling from cow death, however, these characters are struggling with different feelings of loneliness and failure. They come away from their separate encounters with the box stronger than before, and Topher finds himself ensconced in the most beautiful box-human friendship ever depicted.
The same, alas, cannot be said about This Is What You Paid For. Actors in a play within a play, the characters forget their lines, their cues, their pants, and occasionally that they are onstage. This is all to the great distress of the director, who looks every moment as though he is about to collapse in on himself with the force of suppressed rage. It’s like Clue but better, because the names are so superior: Bethany Bosom (first-year Louise Gagnon), Dr. Pepper (beverage professor) (first-year Cole Meldorf), Amelia Squillard (first-year Dasha Shifrina), and Obadiah F. Morgan (an egg salesman) (fourth-year Will Shore) gather at a stately home and—gasp—find that there is a murderer among them, and the guests will be slowly killed until they kill the murderer. There is some sort of egg scrambling punchline, but this soon goes the way of the lint ball, and we are left with my favorite line of the evening: “Quick, we have to kill each other so that we don’t get murdered!” Classic.
In short, Theater  is a festival of all things bizarre and lighthearted on the stage. More than that, it is extremely joyful, as there are few things better than being in a room where everyone—on the stage and in the audience—is having an enormous amount of fun.