In the amount of time it takes to get through a busy fast food drive through, College of Charleston’s gifted student playwrights crafted poignant theatrical vignettes that thoughtfully tackled everything from contemporary usage of the “N” word to stalker ex-boyfriends to the overpriced food at Caviar and Bananas. Under The Lights, performed with minimal props in the black box-style Chapel Theatre, was impressive for its depth and brevity. The 10, 10-minute long plays that comprised the show established, realized, and explored character emotions that can take years to be fully understood away from the stage’s bright lights.
Addiction to Donuts and Jerks by Lauren Krass confronts the heavy issue of weight with a dash of humor. Sarah Kate, a voluptuous twentysomething played by a talented Liz Caralli, speaks directly to the audience as she contemplates the sometimes funny sometimes devastating societal effects of being overweight. From men who are only interested in late-night romps to skinny peers who patronizingly offer “you have such a pretty face!” Humor fades into poignancy as Sarah Kate takes us through the stereotypical “fat girl” scenarios — which audience members of every size can appreciate — and despite her bubbly exterior, we begin to understand her tortured psyche as she grapples with what will actually make her happy: being skinny or eating donuts.
You’ve Got What You’ve Got by Anna Ritter summarizes the complex issue of familial relations as understood by a young woman (Nikki Pearcy) with wit and insight far beyond a young playwright’s years, while Friendly Ghosts by Mira Waters narrates a peculiar interaction between a mourning man (William Haden), and eccentric woman (Charley Boyd) in a funeral parlor waiting room. During the transitory meeting, Waters develops a stirring tenderness between the characters that soothes a struggling David’s soul.
No play was more haunting than the aptly named Perception by Allison Arvay. On the eve of a young woman’s departure for her freshman year of college, she sits with a heart full of baggage in her bedroom full of suitcases. Her mother offers her an old photograph of the two of them together, but what is a happy memory for mom is a reminder for daughter of the day dad walked out on them. The resentment that has been quietly boiling since the day dad left comes flooding to the surface. Emily McKay delivers an outstanding performance, and the character’s anger is palpable. The two begin to fight, and as they rehash the events leading up to the father’s departure, their dangerously incongruent memories demonstrate the power of perception.
In just under two hours, Under the Lights’ fourth carnation successfully solidified the show’s reputation as a Piccolo stand-out and demonstrated C of C’s proclivity for cultivating future theater stars.