Collaboratively cohesive

Vogt A’s pieces, The Wake, The Report, Sound Utterly Serious and Check, Please work together seamlessly to provide commentary on topics relevant to students and nine-to-fivers alike.

Photo: 
Photo: 
Vogt A’s pieces, The Wake, The Report, Sound Utterly Serious and Check, Please work together seamlessly to provide commentary on topics relevant to students and nine-to-fivers alike.
Vogt A’s pieces, The Wake, The Report, Sound Utterly Serious and Check, Please work together seamlessly to provide commentary on topics relevant to students and nine-to-fivers alike.
Photo: 

Hidden in Carruthers Hall, a showcase of fresh talent awaits. Vogt, the entirely student-run and produced studio series, presents a range from conventional comedy to complex abstraction. The first of this year’s series, Vogt A, features four one-act plays, half of which are student-written. Although all pieces are entertaining and smooth, the student-written plays provide captivating abstract entry points for discussion of pertinent issues like rape and technological alienation.

Put on by the drama department and departmental student council, Vogt doesn’t limit itself to the traditional pool of dramatic resources. This year, the production managers emphasize outreach to students from various departments and faculties. The result is a collaboration of various levels of experience and diverse perspectives. Although sometimes the disparate backgrounds show, Vogt proves that a cohesive production is possible from any means.

The first piece in the series is a play written by David Widdicombe. The Wake shows us a brief but life-changing encounter between two unlikely friends. Set in a funeral home, the tactless mortician’s daughter approaches a grieving widow. The story is the cliché, with a plundering morality plea that any situation or relationship can yield fruitful results, but director Lydia Beck interprets the cringeworthy comic tension well.

The actors handle their roles with competence, sliding in and out from flippant humour to rough tenderness. At times the roles feel a bit over-acted, but Tamar Markassarian presented a visceral world weariness as the widow while Avery Parsons’ character, though occasionally vocally grating, elicited laughs. The Wake, formulaic but satisfying, brings their relationship some clever suburban kitsch and ennui despite the sentimental overtones.

The classic comedic duo was followed by The Record, an abstract depiction of rape and its aftermath told through movement and metaphor. Writer Megan Scarborough’s metaphor of a playing record is narrarated by three women clad entirely in black framing a tan canvas forest while two dancers weave around each other and hulking shadows of men lurk in the canvas forest. These shadows materialize as two dancers representing the rapist engage the female dancers in an aggressive but beautiful dance struggle. Just as I started wondering how appropriate it is to use a dance metaphor for rape, this conceptual trail is cut and the tone shifts—the rape ends the dance, skips the record, and I’m left feeling a fool for jumping so quickly to social critique.

Alternating from fanciful footwork to force, the dancers create mounting confusion. The Record is a tale focusing not so much on the pain or the politics, but confusion and memory, sketching sharp details over the image of a scratching record. We learn that our protagonist denies and relives until she can hear a melody over the cacophony of violence. The technical skill of the dancers was impressive even when their routine grew tired, and the sound and lighting crews performed flawlessly.

After the intermission, the Vogt troupe presents another student-written gem. Sound Utterly Serious, written by Celine Song and directed by Song and Jennie Appleby tackles the topic of technological alienation and the shifting quicksand of progress through a clever juxtaposition of marketing and intense emotional experience. Lucas Kolar drills incessantly about the features of the iPhone with cold calculating professionalism, highlighting the impersonality and inescapability of the sales pitch. The iPhone already feels dated, a theme explored further toward the end of the piece when one of the human characters waxes prophetic on the fleeting cultural moment and its inability to capture the human experience.

The concept of Sound Utterly Serious is innovative and translated well by production teams. It reproduces traditional musings on the white noise of the post-modern world with a timely twist.

The dialogue is occasionally clunky and unrealistic. While the musings on death are poignant and thought-provoking, they’re awkward coming from such a sassy character and read as a little more angsty than deep. The other writing was impressive. Song clearly has a good eye for memes and slogans. “There’s an app for that!” becomes a rallying cry for the heartbreaking juxtaposition of convenience and truth.

This juxtaposition is also present in the crew’s efforts. The iPhone man is bathed in white light. He appears washed out—our own decade’s virtual man in the grey flannel suit, deadened to resemble the product he’s pushing. The other characters, truly human and grappling with everything that means, sport colourful clothing and highlighted in yellow and red lighting. They’re ruddy, alive, and flushed like the fall leaves on which they’re kneeling, perhaps representing the autumn of our communications honeymoon.

The piece suffers somewhat at the end by over-explanation. With the message shown so well, we don’t need it told to us. With a bit more faith in the interpretive faculties of its audience, Sound Utterly Serious could be a definitive statement on Generation Y’s communication mishap.

The series ends with a final play featuring a fun series of awkward first encounters. The gimmick that prances along with sophomoric glee into the worst possible 10 of 50 first dates. Two separate tables, each with a comic and a foil, showing us the bottom of the plentyoffish.com barrel. It’s a far cry from the mishaps of Craigslist casual killer adventures, but Jonathan Rand’s Check, Please charts a different dangerous terrain.

The play explores broken social expectations, starting off with four scenarios of common dating mishaps and stereotypes. Sara Garcia and Vince Ricci both provide stable characters, anchoring the antics of “bad dates.” The first few scenes lampoon common character flaws effectively and feature some interesting gender stereotypes. It would be a bit much to say that they offer any searching commentary, but the equal opportunity exposure was refreshing and well-done. The actors catch expected quirks and are believable, especially Lara Kessides’s character. This piece could have stopped after the first few situations, however, as the following situations failed in comparison to the early scenes.

Despite some true laughs, situations grew repetitive and veered enthusiastically into the realm of “politically incorrect,” forcing a lazy stab at multiple personality disorder. My temperate sensibilities were a bit offended—if not for the irresponsible portrayal of mental illness then for the stale derivative writing. The acting was solid throughout though, and the simple set and spotlighting effective.

The student talent on display at Vogt is significant. Even when the professionally-written pieces plod, the team injects enough life to make the evening entertaining throughout. The Report and Sound Utterly Serious are important pieces, deftly tackling relevant issues, and The Wake and Check, Please, despite their lack of originality, provide a comfortable diversion.

Vogt A runs tonight at 6:30 p.m. and 9 p.m. and tomorrow at 6:30 p.m. and 9 p.m. All tickets are $4.

Correction

Vogt A's second play is called "The Record."Incorrect information previously appeared in this article.

The Journal regrets the error.

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