From the moment I reached the University Community Center’s second floor, I could already feel the excited atmosphere that Purple Shorts (Theatre Western’s one-act student-written play festival) always incites, which only increased as I finally entered the crowds of students mingling enthusiastically in The Wave. The mix of light laughter and intense conversations seemed to foreshadow the mix of comedy and drama that would soon be presented on stage, in contrast to the first night, which exclusively featured comedies. The second night of Purple Shorts took the audience from the peaks of happiness to the depths of sorrow with the plays Hard Rocks, Happiness Only Real, and That’s a Wrap. Patrick Callegaro—or “Patrice” on stage—hosted the show once again by interjecting the right amount of humour to balance his informative introductions.
The night started on a light note with Hard Rocks, written by Hannes Filler and directed by Michael Blair. The audience was immediately introduced to a couple (played by Tyler Boulanger and Morgane Lashkari) who own a sex shop, clearly setting the audience up for a night of laughter over crude, sex-related jokes. While there wasn’t much character development, the story line did hinge on a hilariously insightful thought: when the Vatican decided to “censor” Italian sculptures with fig leaves, they must have taken the penises off and kept them in storage…right? After a buyer (played by Iara Gonzales) approaches the couple about this, they fly off to Italy with their assistant (played by Alexx Colakovic) to find these long lost marble penises. The play transitioned between scenes exceptionally well by using hilariously sarcastic audio clips, most notably an entertaining reworking of the boring safety instructions you receive on an airplane. Filler’s masterful use of language was exemplified throughout the play with witty jokes and puns, while the actors’ overly animated gestures and voices embodied the sarcastic tone of the play.
However, the audience’s laughter quickly diminished when the play Happiness Only Real began, written by Janis Chang and directed by Liana Timbol. The audience was thrown right into a tense conversation between three friends (played by Stephen Ingram, Dempsey Bryk, and Bernadette James) about the suicide of their friend, Nick, under the facilitation of a therapist (played by Leah Caran). Once the therapist left the room the play got truly captivating as the friends strove to understand Nick’s decision by re-enacting his final days. The tension in the room became increasingly tangible as the actors did an exquisite job of embodying it in even the most minute movements of their bodies and voice modulations. The lighting added to the drama by shifting between yellow floodlights for normal scenes, and white spotlights for scenes re-enacting the past. Chang’s intelligent script allowed for effective character development and found the perfect balance between disclosing enough information to draw the audience in, while withholding enough information to keep the audience thirsting for more. Instead of presenting a clear conclusion, the play closed with more questions than it started with, but this is precisely why it was so relatable: life rarely gives you explicit answers. Chang revealed that the play was “inspired by personal experiences and stories [she’s] heard from others” and noted how “everyone deals with loss, grief, and unanswered questions.”
Of course, Purple Shorts couldn’t be left on such a serious tone, so the final play returned to a comedy titled, That’s A Wrap, written and directed by Sammy Roach. The play uses the struggle that a team of writers and producers (played by Autumn Scott, Christopher Garisto, Tanya Shoot, Kara Waites, Tyler Boulanger) experience while attempting to write a T.V. series finale to create comedic effect. While the jokes and characters were entertaining at times, the script generally lacked wit and creativity. Overly animated facial expressions and strong inflections in the actors’ voices made up for the fairly static use of space on stage initially as the producers and writers brainstormed while sitting at a table. Yet, once the team finally started to make significant progress on their final script, the actors physically emphasized this productivity by standing and moving around the stage. The play ended on a fairly “meta” note as the love story that’s written for the T.V. show is actually played out between two of the T.V. writers, and a final voice over implied that the entire play about T.V. was actually a T.V. show idea itself.
While the performances were great, the best part of the show was definitely witnessing the passion and talent of Western University’s undergraduate students. After the show, I caught up with some actors to gain some insight on their experience. Tyler Boulanger expressed a love for “adding [his] own personality into the character,” and Iara Gonzales added how she doesn’t “care about anyone else in the room” while she acts. Clearly techniques like these worked well as all three plays left he audience wishing for more!
Hard Rocks: 4/5
Happiness Only Real: 5/5
That’s A Wrap: 3/5