One Acts highlights

Directing and acting standout in student led plays


Photo by Ivy Janes

Performers prepare to go on stage and give their performances.

By Avalon Allen

School plays, particularly when left to the hands of inexperienced students, are prone to disaster. The theater department’s annual One Acts, a compilation of single sketches that are each directed by a different student, could very easily fall into this humiliating trap. Fortunately, this years didn’t.  

The collection of performances viewed on Jan. 13 were all organized, successful productions absent of any noticeable disasters. From this pleasant assortment of shows were some noticeable standouts, such as “We Only Care about the Babies,” directed and written by Senior Ron Barzilay, and “The Variations on the Death of Trotsky,” directed by Senior Michael Wallerius.

Of the six productions directed for this year’s One Acts, Barzilay was the only student to write his. Both creating and directing a play is a daunting task; one that would assumedly have the forgivable mistakes of a novice. Yet Barzilay’s show has the caliber, character and wit of one made by a professional playwright. When watching it, I honestly forgot that it was a simple high school production.

A genuinely educational story on the practices and lives of Orthodox Jews, it’s elevated by mature humor, an endearingly light-hearted outlook and sensitive handling of turbulent issues. This already impressive creation is further improved by its four actors, who play their well-casted roles with sincerity and good comedic timing.

Similarly to Barzilay, Wallerius’ play “The Variations on the Death of Trotsky” focuses on a group of people with ties to world history and foreign cultures. But instead of centering on an intensely traditional Jewish family, it focuses on the famous Soviet politician, Leon Trotsky, his wife and the multiple deaths he sustains.

Despite other acts having plots set in more modern times, rather than in the 1940s, “The Variations on the Death of Trotsky” is still a relatable, humorous and surprisingly poignant story. It’s unexpectedly surreal setting where a man can learn about his own demise the day after it happens is established through the creative use of sound, lighting and a fortune-telling encyclopedia.

Furthermore, the acting in this play is well-done too. Both leads nail their Russian accents, all while skillfully switching between the darkly comedic and genuinely mournful tones of the plot.

Overall, this year’s One Acts were a pleasant watch. The other plays, directed by Rylee Anderson and Allison Russell,  had clever or humorous plots of their own, such as “The Last Man on Earth,” directed by Lavender Payne, which features a desperate dweeb pursuing his crush in apocalyptic times, or the melodramatic high-school sweethearts depicted in “Oh Chad,” directed by Karen Rivera.