What kind of theatrical productions can come from the opening statement, “You can’t keep avoiding the issue?” How many ways can a hairspray bottle be used as a prop? How can you determine whether your roommate is a vampire or not, and what happens when two professors throw an over-the-top party for some freshmen? The answers to these questions can be found in four short performances from Bethel University’s 24-Hour Theatre Project, held on Saturday, February 3rd.
The first of these four skits, called “The Roommate Who Didn’t Like Italian,” depicts a couple named Jeremy and Cynthia (played by Jadon Nelson and Shannon Mitchell) who have invited a strange, cape-wearing, emo-music fanatic named Howard (Hayden Elowsky) to live with them. It is revealed that they had prepared a dinner of Italian, which their roommate reacted to by spitting out the food, smashing an heirloom plate, and running to the bathroom. While Jeremy and Cynthia discuss the outcome of the dinner and plan to hold another one in hopes of getting to know their roommate a bit better, Howard enters the room wearing earbuds and lies on the ground with his arms crossed, pretending to be in a coffin. After Cynthia leaves for work, Jeremy attempts to connect with Howard, and viewers learn that Howard despises Italian food because his cousin died while eating it. Jeremy learns that his favorite food is steak and potatoes. After Cynthia later talks to Howard using a more confrontational approach, she is 90% sure Howard is a vampire. At dinner, Jeremy accidentally stabs his finger, prompting Cynthia to accuse Howard of being a vampire. He acts horrified at the accusation, and Jeremy and Cynthia are both satisfied to rest their case. However, Cynthia uses the prop hairspray bottle as a container of garlic to put in the potatoes to test whether Howard really is a vampire or not; upon eating it, Howard falls over onto the floor. Jeremy and Cynthia start to panic as they think they killed him, but Howard rises from the floor and declares, “Garlic only makes us weaker!” Hayden Elowsky’s performance as Howard stood out because of his excellently executed deadpan humor. Between references to The Incredibles, an argument over “steak” versus “stake,” and a verse from the emo classic “Fall for You,” this skit was cleverly written by Grace Dodd and directed by Abby Hadley as a fresh take on the “weird roommate” scenario.
In the second skit, called “The Conscience Play,” two professors (Tricia Copeland and Maverick Surber) are reprimanded by their dean (Jacob Livingston) after throwing a party for new freshmen that got more than a little out of hand. They decided to hold the party in the science building, leading to a rave in the radiology lab and a buffet in the biology lab, amongst other oddities. They risked the health of the students when they filled up balloons with ammonia but sheepishly said that no one had told them not to. After the dean leaves, Professors Judith and Hank break an important plaque or trophy (the hairspray bottle) and discuss what they should do. Dean Prescott comes back and grabs a gun, declaring there is a zombie outbreak of now-dead students on the lawn. He leaves to handle the situation but comes back shortly, transformed into a zombie. This skit, written by Elijah Bansen and directed by Melanie Bridges, provided viewers with a hilarious answer to the question, “How does a freshmen party lead to a zombie outbreak?” A passionately comedic performance from Jacob Livingston topped off the general mayhem in this skit.
The third production, called “Auditions and Murder,” opens with three friends arguing over the fact that one of them keeps getting the leads in their school plays. Aiden and Sylvia (played by Coen Jaques and Maddie Weiler) theorize that Sydney (Trinity Sabie) keeps getting the lead parts because her sister, Abigail, is the casting director. Sydney denies this, saying that her sister “doesn’t even like her.” After Aiden and Sylvia leave, Sydney practices a monologue and is suddenly, supposedly killed. Sydney’s friends get together to figure out who is responsible for her death, and they quickly point fingers at each other. Sylvia says Aiden had a complicated relationship with Sydney, but Aiden says Sylvia wanted Sydney’s lead parts. However, they decide it was neither of them and question the idea that it was Abigail instead. They find out the auditions were not canceled as they had expected, and they both missed the chance to try out for the play. Sydney’s “ghost” shows up and explains to the audience that she faked her death so her friends would miss their auditions after realizing that Abigail was going to cast someone completely new for the lead. Ironically, Aiden and Sylvia end up getting roles they are happy with, and Sydney gets a minor part in the background of the play. Written by Olivia Holtgren and directed by Emma Greenfield, this skit delivers a positive message that unethical behavior is not always rewarded, and it is better to do things the right way.
Finally, the last skit, called “Pitch Meeting,” depicts a playwright named Wanda (played by Kadie Sue Martin) pitching an idea to her boss (Grace Byler) for a play when she is clearly underprepared. Off the top of her head, she comes up with a play about an orphan dog named Buddy (Carson Jaques) who is trying to find his parents in New York. Buddy finds another dog named Spot (Katie Parks-Bracey), who is “bad news,” but they bond over a stick. Wanda says the play will also include about ten other dogs, who each have different special interests. One is a dog named Apollo who sings about space. Another is named “Abacadogbra,” which is quickly changed to Merlin upon the boss’s disapproval. Merlin likes magic, sitting, and rolling, just as every dog should. Parks-Bracey as Merlin throws a handful of glitter into the audience. Wanda says that the play will eventually include a big fight scene between the purebreds and the mutts. In the end, Buddy finds his parents and there is a dance scene full of sparkly jackets, sunglasses, and dance music, which was hilariously executed by Jaques and Parks-Bracey. Ultimately, their boss rejects the idea, and the hairspray bottle is thrown at Wanda. I want to commend all actors in this skit for their comedic chemistry and excellent timing of hand puppets representing different dogs. Carson Jaques delivered an amusing scene of his hand puppet attacking himself, which I would imagine is difficult to do. Kadie Sue Martin’s performance as nervous Wanda was on point. Written by Laura Bracy and directed by Jenna Sarrazin, I would watch this skit over and over again.