Aspiring filmmakers working in a closing video rental store. A robot boy who is a mere shadow of the dead son his parents were trying to bring back. A retreat where homosexual men go to “cure” themselves. What do these all have in common? They were underlying concepts for the the three short plays in the Ram’s Head Theatrical Society’s psychologically fascinating “Original Winter One Acts,” produced by Holly Dayton ‘17 and held in Pigott Theater.
One-act plays are unique in that they give a brief but developed taste into a situation and characters, sometimes without definite resolution at the end. The pieces in OWOA certainly fit this mold. Each one-act is spare, yet the pieces are also oddly satisfying, crafting an air of mystery and eeriness. Simple, versatile structures and furniture also lend a note of unity to the three works.
In “Rentals,” written by Matthew Libby ’17, two video store employees, Jessica and Tony, prepare for the business to close while contemplating what the closure means for their futures, their careers as aspiring filmmakers and their close friendship as co-workers.
Laura Austin ‘16 as Jessica and Antonio Puglisi ‘18 as Tony have the natural onstage chemistry necessary to make this dialogue-based play shine, and watching them banter is a pleasure. Jessica dreams of making movies but can’t seem to find inspiration, whereas Tony has found it from a very nearby source. Although Jessica’s rhetoric of doubt becomes a bit repetitive and tired toward the end, she reflects many college students’ fears when she says, “all possible futures, all possible endings aren’t good enough … nothing I could ever do would be enough.” “Rentals” ends somewhat abruptly, leaving us in the dark as to what happens to Jessica and Tony and giving us the freedom to imagine a fate for them.
The next piece, “The Resurrectionist” by Spencer Slovic ’18, plays with the idea of how memory, experience and loss tie into who we are in a way that is reminiscent of the film “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.” Allen (Aaron Brackett ‘18) is delighted to show his wife (a nuanced Hope G. Yi ’17) his latest project — a robotic replica of their late son Brendan (Kiko Ilagan ‘19) — only to find that no engineered model could ever truly compare to their deceased child. Ilagan, in his first Stanford production, shows impressive range as he shifts from being a mechanical robot to a real human being.
Finally, in “Journey into Manhood” by Louis McWilliams ’16, the actors explore sexuality and acceptance through the lenses of characters who are trying to actively push away their homosexual urges. Each character — whether he is a married Mormon disappointed that he hasn’t managed to kick his instincts or a burly man convinced that he’s not really gay — inspires sympathy and reflection. As one character puts it, trying to get to know a person is like “trying to find all the stars in the universe.” There are so many factors to our identity that make us who we are, a theme to which all the pieces in “Original Winter One Acts” quietly allude.
Thought-provoking, funny, and alluring, “Original Winter One-Acts” is a must-see.
Contact Madeline Macleod at mmacleod ‘at’ stanford.edu.