The Dan Studio Series closes out the year

Zeal’s four plays lend humour and insight to young relationships

Zeal is the final DSS presentation of the year.

From Feb. 8-10, the Dan Studio Series closed out its 2017-18 season with Zeal, a set of four one act plays shown at the Isabel Bader Centre.

The Dan Studio Series is a production company within the Dan School of Drama and Music that presents student-run shows throughout the year. The final installment of the series for the winter semester brought DSS: Zeal to the stage.

Though each play presented the audience with powerful moments and talented performers, the show’s standout was Say When (a devised workshop) by Evan Lepp and director Mariel Calvo.

Say When took the stage as the second scene of the night and featured two actors, Caroline Anber and Hamza Ali, whose characters were in a relationship. The act opened with the couple arguing over how to assemble furniture from Ikea.

The play then took the audience through the history of the three serious arguments the couple had had over their three-year relationship. These disagreements were impactful explorations of character through precise, well-written dialogue and strong performances.

The characters regularly broke the fourth wall as both Anber and Ali spoke out directly to the audience, making their characters not only feel as real and relatable as possible, but also becoming the driving reason that Say When stole the show.

Prior to this performance, Zeal opened with Available for Weddings and Bat Mitzvahs by playwright Sarah Currie and director Harriet Bramwell. The play featured a three-character piece about a boy going overboard with his affections for a girl and hiring a Craigslist guitarist to help woo her.

Kristen Kim’s performance in Zeal as a guitarist stuck in an awkward situation was hilarious. The character believed she was playing for a marriage proposal, but later realized the pair were only in high school and had yet to even have the “boyfriend-girlfriend” talk.

The high-schoolers’ interactions were appropriately awkward for their age. However, the humour in the performance seemed to undercut the more serious subject matter of the play’s message.

Missed Connections by writer Mackenzie Parrott seemed a little unsure of itself and awkward as well. The characters in the play performed well and humourously, but unfortunately appeared flat and indistinct from the night’s other pieces.

Zeal closed with beat/pulse – a scene combining spoken word, dance and a bed.

The characters ‘Nightmare,’ ‘Train,’ ‘Shadow’ and ‘Kid’ were presented as all grappling with problems that seem to constantly repeat themselves.

The play examined issues ranging from anxiety and sleep paralysis to breakups and police harassment.

Beat/pulse was challenging to grasp as an audience member — it began without context and there was little narrative or plot to it beyond people grappling with their individual issues. Despite this, it effectively presented these problems by exploring the reactions of the different characters, and this is what demystified the show.

Overall, all of the student-made shows in the final installment of the Dan Studio Series contained skillful writing and entertaining performances. That said, there were significant differences in each play’s ability to connect with the audience.

Say When was in many ways the star of the night. It was all that a good play should be while relating to the student experience through scenes about romance and anger at a young age.


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