Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Arts: Amateurs Knock 'Em Dead

By Cameron Paine-Thaler

Tired of overpaying and waiting in long lines only to see a lengthy performance not worth your money and time? The hottest solution in town is a pass to The New School for Drama’s Random Acts! Festival, which opened last weekend and runs through the end of April.

The seats fill up quickly, and it’s worth the free reservation. The performances are blessedly short, plus it’s right in the neighborhood, at The New School for Drama’s Bank St. Theater, at 155 Bank St. You may even be shocked by the number of students you’ve seen lurking in the hallways who turn out to possess some amazing hidden talent.

The well-attended opening on Feb. 13 showcased five plays, each of them a student’s senior thesis work. It began with “The Loveliest Afternoon of the Year,” a nonsensical one-act comedy directed by John Guare, starring two students that fall in love every Sunday during a walk through the park.

This one ended on an absurd note: both characters died.

Though all four of the other plays were either tragic or humorous, each act had a very unique dynamic with a variety of props, characters and settings, giving the night a well rounded, balanced feel.

The final performance of the festival’s opening night, which continues every week, was the debut of Space. Bekah Brunstetter, a New School grad student, wrote the script and Diana Basmajian directed.

Space, starring four students, two of whom speak entirely through Myspace messages, pokes fun at the Internet social networking of generation Y. The audience greeted the jokes and youthful undertones about life after high school with knowing laughter. I left the theater extremely impressed that student writers, directors and actors were able to bring such personable characters to life so recognizably.

The weekend festival was definitely more engaging than any Broadway performance. The performances change each weekend and the festival’s culmination reflects some original dramatic talent.

Upcoming shows are Mar. 1 at 8 p.m., Mar. 2 at 8 p.m., and Mar. 3 at 3 p.m.

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