The UC Davis theater and dance department's annual THIRDeYE Theater Festival once again is showcasing the work of three talented student playwrights and three student directors.
'These three original plays not only provide entertainment,' said artistic director Jade McCutcheon, 'but a forum for debate and discussion.'
The works were created in UCD playwrighting and English courses, where playwrights are encouraged to explore issues that deeply concern them, whether about the environment, death, sexuality, relationships or love.
Solid performances are turned in by Shaya Carp, Desiree M. Doyle and Ashkon Royce Malmoudi in Joe Ferreira's 'The Readers,' directed by Kevin Ganger. Carp and Mahmoudi play Clara and Michael, who live in the poorest of the poor tenement apartments, are engaged to be married, and struggle to make ends meet.
Doyle plays June, their lesbian neighbor, who is attracted to Clara and fearful that Michael's erratic temper might cause him to hurt his fiancée.
The practical Clara is working to pay the bills, while the idealistic Michael is a struggling artist, trying to find a way to live the 'perfect life' in their small, shabby apartment, where the water gets turned off routinely. He is, however, unwilling to work at something that'll actually bring in some money. Arguments about finances are common.
When a large sum of money goes missing from their bank account, Michael confesses he has been seeing 'The Readers,' who are able to read his mind and tell him what his perfect life is, and where his path to success lies. Clara realizes that she doesn't really know this man with whom she is sharing her life, or what he is capable of.
The play explores whether it's possible to make every decision the right decision. And if others could see into our future, do we want them to make our decisions for us?
The incidental mood music by sound designer Reed Wagner is sometimes distracting, and often does not complement the play itself.
Carolyn Duncan's 'When Marcelli Met the Dream Maker,' directed by Jenna Templeton, concerns a 15-year-old writer and her family. The young creator of mythical stories lives with her anorexic sister and eccentric mother, and struggles with the fear of losing her father. Helped by dream-world creatures and characters, the teen makes life-changing discoveries.
Duncan explains that this is her story: 'The pain, the love, the magic are all real parts of me. It was most difficult to write about my own sister's illness.'
The play contains seven scenes, the first three of which occur in different (unnamed) war eras, while the final four take place in the present day.
The printed program is a little confusing: While all the characters have names, they're never referred to by those names in the play itself, so I may have the wrong actors playing the wrong roles. There are three Marcelli women, but only two have last names listed in the program.
I assume Amber Nolan is the young writer, Allissandra Marcelli; if so, she creates a very sympathetic character, as she tries to learn the truth about her father, and expresses concern for her sister's health.
I'm also guessing that Tianna Riva is Allissandra's mother - and also Muse Two, in a dream sequence - and does an excellent job at demonstrating the eccentricities of a parent who is unable to face what might be terrible news.
That leaves either Katie Walton (Danu) or Christina Moore (Morrigan) as Allissandra's sister, who spends her life lying on the couch, afraid to face the world. Whichever actress plays this part does a good job.
The other cast members - Kyle Robinson, William Wong and Steph Hankinson - also tackle several roles, all well.
At the age of 50, with 13 plays already under her belt, playwright Julie Friedrichson - the writer of 'A Piece of Water' - hardly is young. But she came to UC Davis to work with McCutcheon, and wrote her play in McCutcheon's class.
'A Piece of Water,' directed by Daniel A. Guttenberg, explores the roots of emotional crises that result from miscommunication. A cello, a romance and a photographer are central to this unique piece of theatrical poetry.
As Timea (Kristina Stasi) and Freide (Kathryn Hempstead) try to navigate the waters of love in Cold War Hungary, Paula (Kate McGrath) and her partner Rahim (Juan Gallardo) wend their way through a dusty apartment's history, and try to make sense of the present. The two stories intertwine and diverge, flowing in and out of each other toward a conclusion as inevitable as it is elusive.
The old woman, who knows more than she lets on, is played by Sarah Birdsall.
You have only one more chance to catch these new theatrical works, at 2 p.m. today at UCD's Wyatt Pavilion. You'll find this year's THIRDeYE Festival an enjoyable and thought-provoking afternoon of theater.