Drama Queens (and Kings) Light Up the Stage

Claudia Anaya

John Doe begins to introduce a picture of an ideal family but as he continues to talk he reveals that his wife had been murdered, chopped to pieces and scattered on his front lawn by his neighbor, Tommy Psycho Babbit.

“John and Mary Doe,” set in the 1950s and directed by Kim Turnbull, was one of the short plays the advanced theater arts students performed and directed throughout three nights of “Chaos: A Mad Night of Christopher Durang One Act Plays” at the studio theater.

John Doe, played by Stephen Davalos, pretends that the gruesome death of his wife, played by Emily Kugel, didn’t happen and continues to keep an ideal presentation of his life but later kills his three children, played by Libby Letlow, Bliss Thompson and Jemima Santiago.

“Durang is wacky, extreme theater. He takes stereotypical characters and makes things happen. He elongates it, exaggerates it. He makes it funny,” said Royce Herren, adjunct faculty in the theater arts department.

Naomi, an insulting and chaotic woman was brought to life by Letlow in “Naomi in the Living Room,” set in the 1950s and directed by Turnbull.

Naomi displays bits of rage, forced friendliness, and an all-round chaotic personality.

She displays passionate urges to sit on the chair and couch in living room that were being occupied by her son played by Davalos and her daughter-in-law played by Kugel who were visiting her at the time.

Naomi’s rage explodes toward the end of the scene as her son comes out in women’s clothes to look like his wife.

“Why can’t you dress like me?” Naomi screams.
“1-900-Desperate,” one of the first set of Act One plays set in the 1990s and directed by Michael Centeno, featured Gretchen, played by Mary Claire Garcia, as a lonely woman who had just been criticized by her mother for being home alone on a weekend night, not being married and not having kids.

After seeing a commercial for 1-900-Desperate, Gretchen decides to call, only to find that there are two other women on the line: Sally, played by Jessica Unland and Zelda, played by Thompson. There is also one man, Scuzzy, played by Yuvi Sihgh.

Scuzzy seems to be interested in Gretchen but his forceful nature drives Gretchen to a 5-year-old boy, played by Davalos, that has called the line to say his age and talk about his dogs.

Fred Markarians, 19, business law and Charlene Lacambra, 18, nursing, liked “1-900-Desperate,”
“It was funny,” they said.

“It was so realistic,” said Herren. “The actors are doing a good job.”

The second set of one-act plays set in the 1950s included “Diversions,” directed by Lucia Margarian, which tells the story of a woman, played by Mariya Gutsu, who tries to jump off a building and is saved by a nun, played by Thompson, and a group of characters that erupt in chaos.

“Canker Sores and Other Distractions,” directed by Turnbull, with Martin, played by Yuvi Singh, and Prunella, played by Mary Claire Garcia is about an ex-wife and ex-husband as they try to get back together but a canker sore on the husband disrupts their conversation as well as a ditsy talkative waitress played by Jemima.

Jim Niedzialkowski, director of “Mrs. Sorken” and “John and Mary Doe,” explained why the directors chose the Durang plays. “It’s challenging for the actors and the directors.”

“Mrs. Sorken,” played by Santiago was part of the first set of one-act plays set in the 1990s. Mrs. Sorken tries to teach what she remembers about theater with her lipstick smeared, a hanger still on her gray-suit-jacket, and a bag full of yellow crumbled papers and a pair of roller-skates.

“DMV Tyrant,” set in the 1990s and directed by Centeno, presented an exaggerated version of what it’s like to be in the Department of Motor Vehicles as a woman, played by Gutsu, goes to the DMV to renew her license but the DMV lady, played by Santiago, gives her a hard time.

The lady can’t get her license renewed and seems to go nowhere but to a different window at the DMV.

“Women in the Playground” with Ethel as the pessimistic mother played by Unland and Alice as the upbeat optimistic played by Gutsu watch their children at the playground.

The theater was filled to its maximum capacity every night with extra chairs placed on the sides to include more than 55 people in the audience.

People were turned away on opening night due to the fullness of the theater.

In the fall, a larger production of Durang plays will be presented, directed by Matt Foyer, a professional director. For audition and performance dates visit the theater arts department page on the GCC Web site.