Off to a strong start

Short story adaptation makes student-run Vogt B worth seeing

Ashley Peoples stands out as Daisy McCabe in Vogt B’s staging of Timothy Findley’s story Losers, Finders, Strangers at the Door.
Ashley Peoples stands out as Daisy McCabe in Vogt B’s staging of Timothy Findley’s story Losers, Finders, Strangers at the Door.
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Madness is the common theme between all three one-act plays being staged at Vogt B this weekend.
Madness is the common theme between all three one-act plays being staged at Vogt B this weekend.
Photo: 

The only element linking together this year’s short plays in Vogt B is madness.

The student-run series, performed in the Vogt Theatre in Carruthers Hall, offers three one-act plays on this slot’s bill. Stringing together a play about a lonely housewife quelling her despair with gin, a dark twist on reality where humans are pets looked after by a pig and a segment about a near-suicidal young man stumbling upon his guardian angel, Vogt B’s plays peel away layers of sanity and offers insights into downward mental spirals—albeit some more successfully than others.

Of the three plays, one is a short story adaptation and two are student-written. Although each play’s dialogue is noteworthy, it’s clear which play borrowed from a renowned author.

Vogt begins with Losers, Finders, Strangers at the Door, an adaptation of a Timothy Findley story by the same name, adapted and directed by Sarah Bruckschwaiger. The play presents the drunken, sprawling thoughts of Daisy McCabe (Ashley Peoples), a housewife whose husband travels constantly and who feels trapped by his wealth. The witty and so-bizarre-it’s-funny dialogue travels through Daisy’s relationship with her absent husband Arnold as she discusses how thirsty her flowers must be, the glove she lost in a taxi earlier that day and the story of her friend’s husband who enjoys being beaten for sexual fulfillment. She awaits the arrival of a stranger at her door, eager and anxious by turns. When the stranger arrives her chaotic monologue continues, with minimal help from him.

Although the play starts off slowly, Peoples’ performance as Daisy uncovers a heart-wrenching story of a dysfunctional relationship and a lost identity amidst the frivolous madness of her inconsequential jokes.

“Where does he go in all those airplanes? Where is it I don’t go?” she passionately asks the stranger. Peoples steals the show with her riveting delivery. When Daisy’s despair emerges in bursts of vulnerability and rage, Peoples really draws her audience in, bemoaning the identity her husband has found and the one she can’t find for herself. The showcase’s second segment Oink, displaces the audience from the first play’s prim dining room setting to a barnyard where three humans play pet to an intimidating pig master. Written by masters student Matthew Scribner, the pets are fed apples and oatmeal by their master, drink water from a trough and one even makes a trip to a county fair where he wins first prize. One “pet” (Austin Schaefer) is more seasoned than the others, beginning the play with an alarmingly convincing naiveté and content attitude towards his captive life. As he’s introduced to love in the form of a new human (Nicole Smith) appearing in the barnyard, he spirals into an explosion of feelings: fear, rage and the desire for freedom.

With only a few props—bales of hay, a trough, two gateposts and a bench—scattered across the space, the acting shines as all four characters deliver solid performances in this surreal yet chillingly relatable piece about communication breakdown and descent into rebellious paranoia.

The production’s last play is also its most disappointing. Charlie, written by Jacqueline Andrade and Ryan Bovaird, opens with Mark (David Epstein) contemplating suicide by pills and wine because he’s depressed and alone since his wife left him seven months ago. In a cliché turn of events supplemented by contrived acting, Mark’s guardian angel, Charlie (Richard Hogan), shows up and helps him solve his life’s problems by getting in a bar fight and meeting a pretty girl. The unoriginal plot line may have been palatable if the performances evoked any audience sympathy for Mark and Charlie, who shares his own suicidal story with Mark by tritely explaining he “ran out of reasons to go on.” Unfortunately, Charlie misses the mark and fails to convince the audience Mark isn’t nearly as troubled as he is obnoxious.

Vogt B uses a smaller performance space to its advantage, with simple sets and accenting music clips that emphasize the characters’ most minute actions and establish an intimate atmosphere.

Unfortunately, like Daisy McCabe’s level of sobriety, Vogt B starts strong and spirals downward until its end.

“Perfect madness!” she exclaims in the first play. Not quite perfect, but madness, indeed.

Vogt B runs on Feb. 7 and 8 at 8 p.m. and Feb. 9 at 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. in the Vogt Theatre in Carruthers Hall. Tickets are $4 and can be bought at the door.

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