Fifth Annual Student One Acts
by North Coast Repertory Theatre

The Theatre School at North Coast Rep presented their Fifth Annual Student One Acts over the weekend, with the gifted young playwrights not only getting to see their original works staged, but getting to direct them as well. Three one-acts were produced, each a completely different, creative, entertaining trip through the minds of the playwrights, all performed by their talented peers.

It begins with Shauna Peterson’s haunting science fiction piece The Azure Key. Set in a rustic two-room office, the young woman Azure acts as guardian for a mystical gate, as had her ancestors before her. For time out of mind people have disappeared through the gate never to return. A legend spread that it was a gateway to paradise. Long ago people would cross over freely, but now that the territory is controlled by a repressive regime known as “The Policy” who believes that only desirable citizens should be allowed entry, people must trudge through a bureaucratic nightmare before Azure can permit them to tread through the gate.

The intriguing script works the mystery to great effect while receiving some fine performances led by Emily Ratajkowski as Azure – a woman conflicted between following her duty as demanded by the immoral government and following her heart to help those in need get through the gate, all the while struggling with her own doubts as to whether it truly is a gate to paradise. Julia D’Ambrosi is The Policy’s dour minion who wants to make sure Azure is following all the required red tape. Kelsey Barnhill and Eva Loser are amusingly adorable as the two little girls enthusiastic to pass through the gate, while bearing knowledge of a long oral tradition that may hold the key to Azure’s peace of mind. Cool lighting and rumbling effects mark the passing of people through the mysterious gate.

Alicia Heffner’s A Comfortable Kind of Love is a love story told through non-linear snapshots of the relationship between Elizabeth and Michael. From their beginnings as the little boy and girl next door to a love triangle confrontation at the marriage altar (not necessarily in that order!), we see the pivotal moments of their friendship unfold, revealing glimpses of what keeps them together and what might permanently tear them apart. Sharp humor (especially the hilarious first-kiss scene) and some great characters keep the entertainment level high. Cindy Mersten as the aggressive and always more mature Elizabeth is joined by Sean McStravick as the more reserved and uncomfortable Michael, each turning in excellent performances as they go through the various stages of life. Although he seems like a pretty unlikely boyfriend for the caring and sensitive Elizabeth, Brett Bernstein is a total riot as the unbelievably vain and snooty yuppie named Alexus – the third member of the love triangle who forces Michael’s hand.

Elyse Cowles caps off the one-acts by making a strong push for people to get involved politically with her funny and insightful comedy Election. When young Simon is apathetic about participating in his junior high school’s election for class president, he gets a little spiritual help in the guise of Abigail Adams, wife of John Adams, who becomes the Ghost of Elections Past, Present, and Future. Simon soon gets a history lesson regarding the impact some of our most famous presidents have had on America’s course at its critical junctures, not to mention the impact they’ve had on the lives and psyche of the American people. In the Present, Simon watches his school’s current presidential debate between Tanya WUSH and Michael FERRY, with Wush claiming that Ferry won’t keep the students safe from future stink bombs attacks, and Ferry claiming that Wush isn’t even going after the kids who actually threw the stink bombs! Abigail wraps it up by showing Simon a sobering glimpse into the future – the setting being a military cemetery where the nineteen-year-old body of Simon is buried, killed in a war he had been drafted into because of a president who won an election in which Simon had not voted.

The clever script receives equally clever performances from the cast including Garret Peterson as the very un-shy, upfront Simon who isn’t afraid to voice his opinions – but thinks his opinion won’t really matter. Allison Finn is alternately witty and passionate as Abigail Adams attempting to show Simon how critical it is for him to make his voice heard. Brett Bernstein returns in this one act for another hilarious round of vanity and egotism as he portrays various former presidents.

The evening also featured a couple of poetry readings – a probing, introspective poem by Julie D’Ambrosi and a couple terrific works by Carina Kolodny who has a definite flair for imagery, humor, and a keen eye for the little things in life.

Performed February 11 - 13, 2005.

Rob Hopper
National Youth Theatre

~ Cast of The Azure Key ~

Scott: Skyler Sandoval
Ellie: Kelsey Barnhill
Bradley: Skyler Reidy
Claire: Gabby Battista
Inspector: Julia D'Ambrosi
Brooke: Eva Loser
Lena: Sonia Olenak
Azure: Emily Ratajkowski
Director: Shauna Peterson
Stage Manager: Gia Battista

~ Cast of A Comfortable Kind of Love ~

Alexus: Brett Bernstein
Elizabeth: Cindy Mersten
Michael: Sean McStravick
Director: Alicia Heffner
Stage Manager: Elice Bissell

~ Cast of Election ~

Simon: Garret Peterson
Abigail Adams: Allison Finn
Tanya Wush: Victoria Buchholz
Michael Ferry: Natty Zwail
Assistant #1: Lacey Verhalen
Assistant #2: Jeannette Fox
Assistant #3: Brett Bernstein
Director: Elyse Cowles
Stage Manager: Chelsea Stone

Theatre School Director: Joe Powers
Director/Mentor: T.J. Johnson
Stage Manager: Eilee Bissell
Set Designer: Marty Burnett
Costume Designer: Jan Mah
Prop Designer: Maggie Thompson
Sound Designer: Sean McStravick


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