'PURPLE SHORTS': Theatre Review by Shalu Mehta

Let me preface this review by saying The Wave is an ideal venue for an event like this. For those of you that don’t know what Purple Shorts is, it is a one-act play festival featuring six student-written, student-directed plays over the course of two nights. The Wave, being a popular campus restaurant as is, has an atmosphere that caters to comedies like the ones I saw Monday night with its casual setting, alcoholic beverages at the ready (for those of legal drinking age) and a welcoming feel as soon as you walked into the venue. The plays I had the opportunity to see were: Breaking and Entering my Heart, Rosenwood Alcoholics Support Group, and Simon the Brave. I have to say, each play had the audience—including myself—howling with laughter regardless of the fact that I don’t normally enjoy the crude humour that was displayed in most of them.

Patrick Callegaro hosted the show, opening with a fabulous catwalk onto the stage, dressed in drag, and rocking a pair of heels that I couldn’t even walk in if I tried. Going by the stage name “Patrice”, he exuded sass and self-confidence as he interacted with audience members. His routine was a good warm-up, preparing the audience for the outrageous humour to come in the following three plays. Reaching out to the audience immediately was key to fully immersing us into the setting and performances.

Breaking and Entering my Heart, written and directed by Jake Pelling had a smart script that was vulgar in the best way possible. It featured a typical college-boy, bachelor setting that we can all relate to with the two main characters (played by Dan Sleno and Nik Buchowski) struggling to make ends meet. Taking place during an “attempted” robbery, they fall in love with the woman they believe is the homeowner (played by Ryley Alp). All of the actors did a fantastic job using their bodies to emphasize the humour of the scenes, looking absolutely outrageous as they did so. At one point, they even utilised condom humour that was so ridiculous you couldn’t help but laugh. Regardless of Ryley being locked up to a chair for most of the play, her facial expressions made up for her lack of movement, making her character seem bigger than the tiny space she was confined to. Pelling filled the script with great one-liners, which were accentuated by the actors’ movements on stage. Unfortunately, a lot of the humour was lost as the pace of the dialogue was not where it should have been. It made me wonder if the slow dialogue was intentional or due to them struggling to remember their lines. Regardless, the script combined with the outrageous physical humour more than made up for the moments that dragged along.

I wish I could say the same for Rosenwood Alcoholics Support Group. Written by Sam Wyss and directed by Rachel Phillips, I found that this play lacked speed as well as the physical humour that was the previous performance’s saving grace. This play was focused around an Alcoholics Anonymous support group gone wrong. Filled with non-alcoholics who stumbled into the meeting due to other unresolved issues in their lives, I found myself feeling as if I was watching an MTV Live after show of The Hills or Jersey Shore. There are moments, however, where I was still laughing. Samarra Goldglas played a “juice addict” and by far had the most notable presence on stage. She was outlandish, out there, and absolutely hilarious. Slight moments of inappropriateness, specifically between a 19-year-old boy (Dan Sleno) and 35-year-old mom (Tolu Aibana), made me feel so uncomfortable that I had no choice but to laugh—and I commend the actors for making me feel that way. Caitilin Sharkey was given the best lines out of all of the characters and exuded a “ditzy-ness” comparable to Karen in Mean Girls. Dempsy Bryk, playing Russel, a Justin Bieber-like rock star, was perfect in his role. He was self-confident and narcissistic—taking selfies during an AA meeting of all places. The play ended on a rather sombre note, however, tugging at people’s heartstrings as the only person who discovers he is an alcoholic (played by Gordon Haney) is left feeling like a terrible father. While watching a play that is solely focused in a setting where everyone is seated can be difficult to endure, the moments when the characters stood up and made use of their space brought light to a rather unconventional play with a sad ending.

The third and final play of the evening, Simon the Brave, written by Gordon Haney and directed by Maddy Oliver, served as a wonderful ending to the night. It took place during a live theatre show with a rather quirky narrator (Jake Pelling), a girl dressed in a dragon onesie (Chiara Pellegrino), “Simon the Brave” (Christopher Garisto)—a drunkard with drawn on abs— and a variety of other characters who helped narrate the live theatre. Pelling put on a fantastic old English accent to narrate the show, being interjected by constant phone calls from his off-stage wife, Yvonne, who brought about a much darker side to this comedy. Without giving too much of the good stuff away (and lets face it, there’s a lot of good stuff), all I can say is that I felt as if I was truly watching a lunatic on stage and couldn’t help but laugh. I should have felt bad about laughing at so many jokes in the play and yet, I didn’t, because the comedy was fantastic and was executed perfectly. My only criticism for this show is that, though the use of vulgarity was appreciated at some points, it seemed a bit overdone at others and made me stop and think about whether or not I felt offended by its constant use.

The night wrapped up with Patrice, back on stage, and reminding us that the last bus was leaving soon. Although I was sad to be dragged back out into reality after so much laughter, I was thoroughly pleased with the evening. The crowed ate the comedies up as fast as they could and it was obvious they wanted more. Overall, and as per usual, I was impressed by the talent Western students have and can’t wait to see something like this put on again.

Breaking and Entering my Heart: 4/5

Rosenwood Alcoholics Support Group: 3/5

Simon the Brave: 4.5/5

Overall: 4/5

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