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Mercyhurst student directors put fun into ‘dysFUNction

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The Mercyhurst Theatre Program presents a student-directed festival of one-act plays Feb. 4-7 in Taylor Little Theatre. Titled dysFUNction: The Plays of Christopher Durang, the festival includes seven short comedies by the Tony Award-winning playwright:

  • Mrs. Sorken, a curtain-raiser in which an over-articulate, somewhat dotty woman delivers a lecture on the theatre;

  • For Whom the Southern Belle Tolls, a light-hearted parody of Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie;

  • Naomi in the Living Room, a sketch in which the alternately friendly and insulting title character is visited by her son and daughter-in-law;

  • ‘dentity Crisis, a black comedy in which Jane, who is recovering from a nervous breakdown, watches her mother, brother and psychiatrist repeatedly change identities;

  • The Actor’s Nightmare, a spoof that details the plight of a stranger who is suddenly pushed on stage to replace an ailing actor;

  • Funeral Parlor, a sketch in which a widow is accosted at her husband’s funeral by an inappropriate guest; and

  • Wanda’s Visit, an over-the-top comedy in which a suburban couple is visited by the husband’s old high school girlfriend, who tells long stories of her past promiscuity and various possibly criminal activities.

Dr. Brett D. Johnson, director of the Mercyhurst Theatre Program, says the one-act festival is a sort of capstone project for the student directors, junior and senior theatre minors who have been responsible for every step of the directing process. “It requires them to draw upon their knowledge of acting, directing, script analysis, theatre history, dramatic literature and technical theatre,” he explains.

He says he chose to celebrate Durang’s works in this inaugural festival. “His plays are great for young directors because the focus is on navigating the dynamics between characters with strong, clear points of view as opposed to creating clever staging or elaborate business,” he says.

The plays will be performed in repertory, with Mrs. Sorken, For Whom the Southern Belle Tolls, Naomi in the Living Room and ‘dentity Crisis being presented on Thursday, Feb. 4, and Saturday, Feb. 6, at 8 p.m., and Mrs. Sorken, The Actor’s Nightmare, Funeral Parlor and Wanda’s Visit on Friday, Feb. 5, at 8 p.m. and Sunday, Feb. 7, at 2 p.m.

Single tickets are $7. All performances are general admission, with doors opening 30 minutes prior to curtain. 

Seating is extremely limited. Tickets can be reserved by calling 814-824-3000 or by visiting the box office in the lobby of the Mary D’Angelo Performing Arts Center. The box office accepts both cash and credit cards. Tickets will also be sold at the theatre beginning one hour before curtain, with cash sales only.

Warning: The festival contains strong language and adult situations and is intended for mature audiences.

dysFUNction: The Plays of Christopher Durang will showcase the talents of 31 Mercyhurst students. Mrs. Sorken, directed by Sarah Creighton, features Abby Larimore (Mrs. Sorken); For Whom the Southern Belle Tolls, directed by Brianna Carle, features Kimberly Kuehl (Amanda), Brandon Miller (Lawrence), Emmett Clark (Tom) and Vivian Suazo (Ginny); Naomi in the Living Room, directed by Bethany Sulecki, features Charity Ludwig (Naomi), Aidan Giles (John) and Erin Fink (Johnna); The Actor’s Nightmare, directed by Luke Ballantyne, features Vince Marrazzo (George), Emily Rossi (Meg), Sarah Krempasky (Sarah Siddons), Katie Kruszynski (Ellen Terry), Maxton Honeychurch (Henry Irving) and Jeffrey Krull (Executioner); Funeral Parlor, directed by Jennie Cross, features Ashley Poletto (Susan) and Ryan Kushner (Marcus); and Wanda’s Visit, directed by Tonya Lenhart, features Lauren Naples (Wanda), Jeanette Fournier (Marsha), Jared Hancock (Jim), Peter Vizza (Waiter), Alexandra Newton (Mobster) and Derek Mattson (Mobster). The stage management team includes Kathryn Schmitt and Caitlin Mininger.