Student One-Acts: Wayward wallets, teen angst, and some magic

(c)Janet Fishman

Hannah-Leeba Ellenhorn, Staff Writer

Much anticipated, this year’s One-Acts were once again a showcase of quality writing, directing, and acting.  Using the unlikely vehicle of a wallet to marry universal themes such as love and questioning God’s wisdom, the five student-written plays ranged over a variety of teenage issues, from the intrusion of electronic technology to the value of high school love. The result was a perfectly balanced and cohesive drama, as relevant as it was entertaining.

This year the festival was titled Lost and Found, and the theme that unified the five plays was a wallet.  In each play, a wallet represented a place where people’s keep things from getting lost.  The symbolism was neither overt nor stated, but wound through the dramas like a path linking disparate worlds.

Two of the plays – “Hold Your Horses,” by senior Rebecca Asch, and “Blindness,” by senior Jenny Newman – wrestled with finding a balance between living in a technologically saturated world and a simpler time without endless electronic interruptions.  In “Hold Your Horses,” director Jenny Newman coaxed unforgettable performances from actors Naomi Abehsera and Leona Fallas.  Her voice adorned with a darling Southern accent, Leona played a simple park ranger who taught Naomi, a bratty Beverly Hills businesswoman, that there is life beyond her Blackberry.

In “Blindness,” junior Talia Rotenberg delivered a sharp performance as a hardworking, upwardly mobile business executive addicted to her smart phone.  Freshman Scotty Silver played a whiny teenager withdrawing from life because his parents fight, and sophomore Rose Bern played a guard of some sort who helped the pair see by blinding them from goings-on of the real world. The message seemed to be that sight – at least in the sense of real vision – is more than one of the five neurological senses. “Blindness” was directed by Ms. Emily Chase, who is also Shalhevet’s Drama Department Chair.

Next on the program was junior Leona Fallas’s play-within-a-play fantasy, “The Magical Wallet,” which seemed to provoke the most spirited response from the audience. In a plot that is almost impossible to explain, Leona’s characters ranged from a prince and princess with a magical wallet to a high school couple in the throes of breaking up.  Rose Bern played both a narrator in the fantasy and the object of senior Emilio Lari’s jilted affections in the real world, switching back and forth between roles and plays like a stage-struck time traveler.

As the prince, David Fletcher’s elastic facial expressions and spot-on sense of comedic timing carried the plot through all its twists and turns. As his princess, Rebecca Asch’s adorable pixie cut lent a modern touch to her character and her acting added humor to the magical storyline. Emilio played the sensitive yet manly boyfriend with compelling machismo. Kudos to senior Rachel Lesel, whose direction showed she really understood the pressures of teenage love.

In addition to her memorable roles in “Blindness” and “The Magical Wallet”, Rose Bern also scripted “A Divine Case,” in which junior Michael Silver played a down-on-his-luck big-city lawyer who decides to initiate a civil case against God, played by fellow junior Adam Sharabi.  Looking extremely handsome in an all-white suit, God actually shows up to court and explains the reason why bad things happen.  Sophomore Brianna Marshak played Michael’s adoring wife, while freshman Sarah Soroudi served as Judge in the case against G-d.

The standout performance was delivered by freshman Eliya Cogan in Rachel Lesel’s “Tomorrow’s Opportunity.” This play took teenaged angst into the future, where robots serve as everything from baristas to policemen, and humans, apparently still in the dark ages, live lives as pirates and insecure teens. Eliya played a hostage-taking babe and was mesmerizing from the moment she set foot on the stage.

Annie Asch, a freshman, gave a smart performance as a variety of robots, while senior Jaclyn Kellner vividly created a nerdy teen ninja falling in love.  The object of her affections was freshman Eric Lunzer, cast as a futuristic son of a swashbuckling pirate who makes his son feel inferior. Rachel Lesel’s incredibly imaginative script made the actors’ job that much easier, and under the direction of Rebecca Asch, the writing and acting riveted like a Star Wars sequel.

Last Thursday, Lost and Found enjoyed a wildly successful opening night. Each seat of Shalhevet’s Wildfire Theatre was filled and the excitement in the air was palpable.  It was a worthy testament to the writing, directing, acting and technical talents at our school, led by Ms. Chase, who’s built a program that lets students’ talents go far.