By Rachel Heller
As students, parents, and theater-lovers were ushered into Arundel High School’s auditorium on November 8 and 10, anticipating the commencement of Arundel Theater’s Fall One Acts, what awaited them was a physical embodiment of the pure ingenuity and talent of Arundel Theater students.
The first of the two plays, 368 Friends, was written by playwright Bradley Walton and directed by Arundel senior Dani Kellner. 368 Friends opens with a teacher, Mr. Downey (Robert Cambardella, junior), giving his class a purposefully foreshadowing lesson on a French play called No Exit, where the characters are trapped in Hell and dependent on others for affirmation. However, no affirmation can be gained due to their dislike for one another, symbolizing an even deeper hell for them. The scene then transitions to center upon Lawrence (Zuko Rasmeni, senior), a quiet, distant teenager who lacks any real social life. Lawrence’s life reaches a turning point when his classmate, Diane (Marin Dolbeck, senior), coaxes him into creating a Snapchat account to befriend his love interest, Steven (Jermaine Piper, senior). Lawrence follows through in befriending Steven and relishes in the ability to gain friends with a simple tap of a button. Soon enough, he garners 368 online friends, which—at first—seems to be all that he’ll ever need. But as time passes, Lawrence begins to feel an emptiness towards his online status and contemplates suicide, waiting to see if any of his 368 “friends” will stop him.
Touching upon themes such as the futility of online status and the common human tendency to seek affirmation from others, the messages behind 368 Friends were exceptionally enhanced thanks to the talents of the cast.
Rasmeni, having appeared in Arundel’s 2017 spring musical, Les Miserables, served as the driving force behind the play. He showed a natural aptitude for acting as he perfectly conveyed Lawrence’s internal struggle to gain acceptance. Rasmeni navigated through Lawrence’s character development with a type of ease comparable to the levels of a pro, from his initially somber demeanor, to his hopeful disposition, and back again to his bleak outlook on life.
Dolbeck, taking part in her second round of fall one acts, also proved to be a highlight of the production, portraying Diane as Lawrence’s voice of reason. Her most noteworthy scene was in a heated argument between Diane and Lawrence, where her character came to the realization that Lawrence’s obsession with social media had caused him to morph into a completely different person. Dolbeck conveyed a fiery intensity that was almost tangible.
Even the smaller roles contributed to an all-around expertly crafted play. As Rasmeni’s character sat in solitude in his bed, hunched over his phone as he watched the Snapchat stories of his classmates, his peers (Zach Watkins, senior, Alex Mihalyi, freshman, Elizabeth Moore, junior, Bec Crow, senior, Devin Weatherspoon, junior, Drake Mayer, sophomore, Kennedy Cole, junior, Clare Dombrosky, freshman, Journey Brown-Saintel, senior) echoed their Snapchat story updates, with each update submerging Rasmeni’s character deeper and deeper in a sea of shallow interactions.
The second and last of the plays, New York Actor, written by playwright John Guare and directed by senior Sarah Valerien, closed the night off with a final ode to the ability of Arundel’s actors and actresses in captivating and enthralling audiences. Set in a New York theater bar/restaurant, stage performers and friends Craig (Thomas Greenslit, freshman), Nat (Madison Jurek, junior), Bailey (Makayla Kolbe, freshman), and Evan (Samuel Hendershot, senior) gather to discuss past failures and future successes. The seemingly ordinary evening takes an undesirable turn as misfortunes arise. Craig discovers that he’s been replaced in an upcoming Broadway production, and Nat is framed for the waitress’ crime (Kendra Dolinka, senior) of stealing Jessica’s purse (Katelyn Shibilski, senior), wife to Charles, a New York Times critic (Colin Delpo, junior) .
While the banter between Greenslit, Jurek, Kolbe, and Hendershot effortlessly progressed the plot and superbly communicated the plights of modern-day performers, the captivating monologues of Dolinka and Shibilski’s characters stole the show. Dolinka and Shibilski possess prior experience in the theater, having appeared in numerous other Arundel productions, including last spring’s Les Miserables. Their razor-sharp acting chops certainly shined through.
Dolinka commanded attention with her monologue, recounting the wide-ranging and extensive food and drink orders she’s received from customers. A mediocre actress may struggle to deliver the monologue in a manner compelling enough to hold the audience’s attention, however, Dolinka established herself as not just some mediocre actress. Her voice accumulated more force with each recollection, prompting the crowd to hang onto every syllable.
Just like Dolinka, Shibilski assured that all eyes in the room stayed on her. Through her speech addressing various aspects of her character, Shibilski masterfully painted a picture of a woman with a fierce distaste for the theater. A monologue can be difficult to deliver; for a few daunting minutes, the entirety of the play depends solely on the words of one character. Nevertheless, Shibilski mastered the art of monologues with flying colors, drawing attention to her impressive skills as an actress.
Not all of the talents of Arundel Theater were under a spotlight. Neither of the plays could’ve come to fruition without the leadership of the play directors and the stage manager/technical director, Natalie Britt, senior, as well as the seamless set transitions of the running crew (Jarod Britt, junior, Andrew Hennigan, senior, Molly Tonrey, senior, Emily Arvidson, senior, Ben Keller, sophomore, Sam Acey, junior).
Arundel Theater’s next venture is their spring musical, All Shook Up, a jukebox musical based on William Shakespeare’s play, Twelfth Night, set to the songs of Elvis Presley. If it amounts to the level of excellence that characterized the One Acts, it’ll surely be a must-see.