Rule of 7×7 reviewed by Gabriella Grimes
- March 19, 2015 at 2:11 pm #1724
February 28th, 2015
Rule of 7×7
February 27th, 2015
Rule of 7×7 is a bimonthly theatre project held in a small black box theatre known as The Tank located Midtown West. The hour and ten minute long show draws the attention of the audience by providing seven different storylines by seven different commissioned playwrights whose plays must adhere to seven rules, each one chosen by a specific writer. Examples of the rules are, “Somewhere on page one: A back-handed compliment followed by ten seconds of silence,” and “Math.” Despite there being so much information handed to the audience in such a short span of time, three very important scenes stuck out more than anything else. From one play, a man with an obsession for an ex lover lunges towards her; another play shows a very stoic man weeping in front of strangers; and one play takes a more controversial road when two teenagers break their oaths of abstinence. These three particular moments in Rule of 7×7 display the imperfections of man with acting strong and relatable enough to provide an atmosphere which props and an elaborate set could not.
In Ashley Jacobson’s The Audition, two women, Tara and Kara, are holding auditions for their local theatre’s production of A Streetcar Named Desire. Their first arriving actor, a man clad in an all black outfit, gloves included, coat excluded, makes his way in and Kara is surprised to see it’s Brian, a man with whom she had slept one night months ago. She describes him to Kara with such colorful language as, “batshit crazy.” Brian begins his audition by stepping a foot closer to the audience and looking out with a very wistful expression. His eyes are red and wide, his skin very pale in contrast to the black clothing and setting, and his voice shakes as he starts a monologue he wrote himself. He speaks of an ex lover who does not return his affection, and as he continues, his voice becomes shriller and demanding, his eyes somehow wider, and he falls to his knees in defeat after admitting he has seen her in public, “but she hasn’t seen me!” Discomfort among the two women is apparent, as they stand on a more dimly lit part of the stage, until Brian bounces up, and rushes towards the table the women have set up, forcing them to run back against the wall as he demands to know why Kara won’t love him back.
There is a momentous pause as the audience watches Kara and Tara’s frightened faces bathed in bright pale light. Brian is shrouded in the edge of the weak light, making his features barely visible. It is at this moment that he’s no longer seen as the running joke throughout the first few minutes of the play. He is a deeply unwell man with an obsession for someone who he cannot have; he refuses to respect her boundaries after she told him multiple times it would never happen, and yet the audience feels sympathy towards him. He portrays the person we all have in our life who claims to be “friendzoned” while not reviewing how his own actions may be affecting those he wishes to pursue. As Brian stands there, bent far over the table to try to reach Kara, his hands trembling under the weight of his body, his teeth clenched together having just let out a loud shriek, one really has to ask themselves if he is more deserving of pity or of hate. However, the next play more so questions the idea of pity as well as humility.
Snowstorm by Brett Aresco follows the story of two couples who go away to the mountains for a skiing trip. Maria is dressed in noticeably more expensive clothing than Rachel as they schmooze over glasses of Chardonnay before their husbands come inside from the blizzard. They begin to discuss where they left their children for the week as Pete, Rachel’s husband sits uncomfortable, overeating, and silent, which Rachel describes as his nature. When Joe, Maria’s spouse asks Pete to join him to get firewood, Pete completely breaks down. He begins to sob frantically, his entire body hunched over and shaking as high pitched whimpers escape his body. The lighting is yellow to propose a warm atmosphere, however the expressions on Pete’s face provides a stunning juxtaposition of pain and anger to the suggested setting. He goes on to yell in anguish that their family is completely broke and he feels as though his manhood has been threatened by not being able to provide for his family. As an added jab to his masculinity, another man had invited him and Rachel to his swanky cabin in the mountains for “what is perhaps the richest activity anyone can do.” His anger and frustration for not being able to provide for those he cares about would have even been apparent in different words, as his tone and actions say it all. His empty eyes avoiding contact with even his wife’s paired with his unsteady legs walking away from the group of three presents a type of isolation anyone can understand. The final image, however, displays a different kind of relatability that especially teenagers and young adults comprehend.
Donaldo Prescod’s The Lord’s Work is the story of a young couple, Billy and Diana, who is having a night in after a community dance. With thick southern accents and a love for famous televangelist, Joel Olsteen, it’s easy to see that the two are deeply religious. They’ve sworn abstinence, and there is seemingly no doubt in Diana’s mind that they will not be moving that far in their physical relationship. As the two begin to gossip under a blanket, it comes out that they both want to make their relationship more physical, but feel guilty due to their religion. Eventually they begin to explore each other’s bodies beneath the blanket until they find themselves breaking their vows of abstinence. Diana becomes unrestrained and begins to take complete control, forcing her way on top of Billy on the coffee table, her face full of elation as her head is tilted toward the bright light which intensifies the illumination of her already radiant face and happily swinging arms. Billy lies beneath her with a look of confusion and panic, too concerned about how unhinged his girlfriend is acting to truly enjoy what’s going on. Although that brings up the question of whether or not he really enjoys it. Billy and Diana’s situation perfectly brought up the issue of sex education: had they known how much sex could affect them, would they have done it? Diana, perhaps, but Billy’s terrified expressions during and after their affair may very well lead the audience to believe he would not have acted purely on desire. The discernible contradiction of the actors’ reactions to sex rings loud in our society today as it asks the question of how does one know if they’re ready for what everyone else is doing?
Rule of 7×7 was far greater than anticipated. Each playwright wonderfully used the tools necessary to make a concise play with some sort of lesson or social commentary. Choosing just three scenes due to the large amount of information was difficult, however the acting in these far outshone anything else from the play. The acting was raw and identifiable; it was wonderfully impressive, especially since the space was so small and props were so limited that they had to make do with a minimal environment. The movements, expressions, and tones of the actors from these scenes left small blanks for the audience to fill in, as well as established a connection to a memory from each audience member’s life.
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