Review: New Plays Festival opens with a bang

Student directors bring alumni works to life

April 13, 2013

Part of a series on Theater

Knox’s New Plays Festival opened this weekend with staged readings of Jenny Seidelman’s (’99) “Henry Moore is Melting” and Joel Pierson’s (’89) “Mitch in the Morning.”

“Henry Moore” was based on elements of a true story about thieves who stole a Henry Moore sculpture worth hundreds of thousands of pounds and sold it for scrap metal. It tells the story of Tommy (freshman Micah Snow-Cobb), the Irish  traveler whose brother stole the sculpture.

Tommy wants to save the art and will try everything to preserve it.

The play benefited from spirited actors doing their best Irish accents and a script that rolls along well. Although the occasional accent was lost, any omissions were made up by Visiting Instructor of English and Theatre Sherwood Kiraly’s (’72) rendition of the “business man” Jimmy, a role he attacked with vigor.

The end of the play stumbled from the not uncommon problem of believing that a gunshot is enough to end a play on, but other than that, the audience’s time was well spent.

That being said, even if “Henry Moore” wasn’t worth the audience’s time, it would be worth sitting through for the second play, “Mitch in the Morning.”

Although “Mitch” is officially a staged reading, junior Jordyn Stewart’s production seemed more like a mix of  a staged reading and a minimally staged production.

The play tells the story of Mitch (junior Neil Phelps), a shock jock who co-hosts a morning radio show with his straight man, Lisa, and his buffoon sidekick Grunt. The three are going through a normal show until one caller threatens to shoot a man on air.

The play then shifts to an incredibly deft balance of comedy, black comedy and drama. Although the play does not take its premise lightly, it uses dramatic tension to underscore its humor, and humor to heighten its dramatic tension.

Stewart’s cast fit the parts to a “t.” Phelps as the shock jock Mitch manages to play the role with over-the-top bravado without ever losing the patches of thoughtful sincerity that occasionally surface. Freshman Hollie Dyer takes the thankless role of the straight man and actually gives it charisma. Junior Jackie Hewelt was a joy to watch as a professional buffoon.

Both playwrights had every right to be proud of the pieces they put on stage. It looks like Knox’s experiment in theater got off on the right foot.

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  • Joel Pierson

    As the author of “Mitch in the Morning,” I want to offer my thanks to the reviewer for those kind words, and very hearty thanks and congratulations to the director and cast of the play, for bringing my words to life. It was an honor to be there watching these talented students at work. Thank you also to the Theatre Department for this opportunity. May all the new plays be delivered so skilfully!

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