A Milk Man and a Cowboy Get Stuck in a Time loop- A look at the One Act Festival

This past weekend, the Black Box space in the Theatre Building was packed with an audience eager to see the One Act Festival. Previously known as the Directing Projects, the festival is the culmination of two terms’ worth of hard work by the students in the directing department, helmed by Prof. McCandless. Each piece was wonderfully unique, and all three directors and their casts deserve a big round of applause. 

The first play was I’m So Proud of You, written by Nona Lee Porter and directed by Sam Lucas. I’m So Proud of You follows Sam (played by Pierce Bach) and Finn (played by Liam Jones) as they realize they are stuck in a time loop. Not only that, but the loop is only 63 seconds long. After the initial shock and references to the film Groundhog Day, the two roommates laugh, scream, slap, and hold each other as they sob. I’m So Proud of You asks the audience who they can trust as secrets are confessed and the truth is discovered. While the nature of the time loop is ambiguous and left up for interpretation, it is finally revealed that Sam is dead, and Finn has been aware of this loop since long before the play began. Suddenly, the one-act becomes a meditation on grief and what we hold on to when we lose the people we care about most. With a piece like this, it would be easy for actors to fall into the rhythm of hitting the same beats the same way at the same time. But both actors were able to find such amazing nuance and new ways to play with the script. In the end it made for a piece that was compelling, hilarious, and heartbreaking all at the same time. 

The next play was The Exception & The Rule, written by Bertolt Brecht and directed by Lucia Kaelin. This sprawling story tells of a Merchant (played by Allan P. Jones II) traversing the desert for some fortune to be made on oil the next town over. He brings with him a Guide (played by Duncan Larson), who he later fires, and a Carrier (played by Andrew Chavatal), who he later murders when mistaking a water flask for a weapon. The play culminates in the court case between the Merchant, the Carrier’s bereaved Widow (played by Afua Banful) and the overruling Judge (played by Isaac Glace). The chorus of this one act keep this rootin’ tootin’ show on a roll with music, singing, and title cards (portrayed by Anna Poff, Elliot Grubb, Max Downward, and Lea Beaubien). At times a literal tumbleweed rolled across the stage. But don’t let the Stetson hats and guitars fool you, this play is about class disparity. The writer, Bertolt Brecht, is a playwright notorious for sharp political commentary as well as his purposeful theatricality. We the audience knew the Carrier was innocent and didn’t deserve his fate, but the Merchant was able to spin the evidence in his favor based on the jury’s preconceived notions about the Carrier, a man in a lower class than all of them. This play raises the question: is kindness towards your oppressors the exception or the rule? 

Last, but certainly not least, was Cold Whole Milk, written by Sarah Billings and directed by Milo McAllister. Set in roughly the 1950’s, this play follows two couples as societal pressure and lack of communication threatening to tear them apart. Margret (played by Sonja Kinney) is a woman who is hiding her sapphic identity, and her spouse (played by Shane Howard) is hiding her newly discovered identity as a trans woman. Meanwhile, their mailman Jim (played by Asa Warnock) and Buddy the milkman (played by Ken Lee) begin flirting that is quickly quashed when Buddy refuses to confess his feelings. What is so wonderful about this piece is its focus on queer joy. Though it is set in the past, it never dwells on the common troupe of the tragic queer character who never finds a happy ending. In fact, both couples have a happy ending! Buddy declares his love for Jim- so much so that he breaks the fourth wall and goes up to individual audience members to say as much. Margret and her wife get the happy ending they deserve as well, the play ends as they step outside their home for the first time as their authentic selves for a walk, heads held high and more in love than ever.  

If you missed this fantastic night at the theater, don’t worry! Two more productions have premiered March 16th (last night) and have one more show tonight at 8pm. The League of Youth is a hilarious political satire directed by Connor Lomeli, and The Pavilion is a fantastically theatrical love story directed by MaryEllen McGinnis. They preform March 16th and 17th at 8pm in the Black Box theater, and admission is free! Come and support the next generation of directors. 

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