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Thursday, Jun 20, 2024

Collage of Scenes Connect 'Impassioned Embraces'

Author: Suzie Mozes

"Impassioned Embraces" hit Hepburn Zoo this past weekend for two sold out performances. This bizarre jumble of one-act plays, written by John Pielmeier, left the audience puzzled about the relatedness of each act yet satisfied with its entertaining unpredictability.

The ensemble commenced with "Sado – Monologue." Toying with actor/audience dynamics, Jan Greenfield '02, playing a director, planted herself in the seat that I had originally selected. As Greenfield hurled insults and demands at Angus Sutherland '05, a stressed actor struggling with the intensity of his scene, Sutherland became the audience to Greenfield's remarks. The boundary line between audience and actor, already blurred by cross-legged college kids sitting on the floor, shifted backwards into the audience's "personal space." With necks craning forward, all the audience could distinguish was Greenfield's taught wrist representing the stereotypical director with her stereotypical cigarette and stereotypical smoke twirling into the heavens of the harsh lighting.

By the conclusion of the scene, the audience refocused their attention on both actors as Greenfield and Sutherland stood together in the spotlight.

Jill Marcum '02 graced the stage with a black dress and purple feather boa for the next skit, "My Life in Art." Portraying the developmental rise and falls of an actress from childhood into middle age, Marcum flew all over the stage portraying conversations with her mother, auditions and bad career choices. Releasing her inhibitions, Marcum hurled herself into this role with unfurled confidence. While lacking the inherent arrogance of the character, Marcum brought the appropriate wit, class and conceit to "the actress."

Like the animation in a 3-D movie, first-year Andy Arazoza's talent in "Mondo Vee – Day – O" protruded from the entire show as something very special. Arazoza became a television set — literally. As some unseen couch potato flipped between various television channels, each with a separate plot line, Arazoza clicked to each station. Assuming an array of diverse characters through accents and vocal impersonations, Arazoza carried the audience through each of the crazy plot lines without too much confusion. Moreover, the audience responded to him even more because of the advanced level of the skit.

At this point, a backlight went on to help the stage crew set up for "An Intellectual Discussion." The lights rose upon Erin Sullivan '04.5 and Sutherland, a discontented couple, eating breakfast in their pajamas. This humorous skit explored the paradoxes of assuming that one is always correct. As this grown couple reverted into childlike squabbling, which eventually escalated into a food fight, Sullivan and Sutherland articulated their lines with a seamless flow of irrationality and absurdity that the scene demanded.

In a variety of personas and perspectives, Greenfield recounted her father's death in "Emotional Recall." Delivering her lines with conviction, she may have used more motivation in her variations on the pieces to convey the different characters. Her choices for stage placement attested to a well developed plan to lay emphasis on her different characters.

Sullivan hit the right chords for comedy in "The Backers' Audition," where she played a suicidal playwright trying to sell her dreadful musical "Ah! Walden" to financiers. Flippantly uniting the humor and despondency of her character, Sullivan truly embodied the disheveled character that seemed to almost instigate her own failure with a convincing and energetic performance.

"Impassioned Embraces" concluded with "The Acting Olympics" that involved all five actors. Once again, Arazoza generated the most laughter in this collaboration in his final medley of collaged American quotes. Greenfield and Marcum expertly evolved into acting judges as Sullivan and Sutherland assisted Arazoza during their intense competition set in south Yemen.

The overwhelming creativity of "Impassioned Embraces" surfaced yet again as the actors did not take their bows, but instead distributed their head shots as they "worked" the audience.

After only taking a single acting course, Amy Tay '02 directed this play with a quality of production that spoke much more than her limited experience revealed.

Despite the array of situations that were presented by the cast, they united these seemingly incoherent vignettes into a cohesive production of inventiveness and originality.