October 2, 2011

Risley’s “Junk” Verges on Bizzare

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This weekend, Risley Hall invited students to indulge in its latest homemade performance, “Junk.” “Junk” was written by former Risley Artist in Residence, Will Cordeiro ’10 and directed by current Risley Artist in Residence Carolina Osorio Gil; the production’s cast and crew is also made up of Risley-ites.

“Junk” is a dystopian murder mystery comedy set in a dump, hence the title. “Junk” opens on what looks like the set of a 50s sitcom about a family of four, but as the audience soon realizes, this is a sitcom family from hell. Then Zoo, played by Sebastian De La Cruz ’15, a fiendish, pimpish, web series producer obsessed with getting hits on his site, comes onto stage and gives a monologue about the disgusting things people watch on TV and the Internet. Zoo’s second-in-command, Riki, played perfectly by Morgan Michel-Schottman, realizes that showing a live murder is a surefire way to get hits on their website.

Next comes the robot prostitute, She9, played by Molly Edwards ’12. Like the rest of the cast, Edwards does not hold back. She proudly wears her metal bra and silver body paint to seduce the private detective, Joyride (Remanu Phillips ’12) and anyone else who is interested.

The plot is confusing, but that doesn’t matter. “Junk” seems to be more about watching good actors doing silly things and making the same dirty jokes over and over than about any sort of coherent storyline. And that is most likely the root cause of the alienation that viewers will feel while watching “Junk.” It may be unbelievably hilarious to watch the actors make out if you’re friends with them, but it is only slightly amusing as an outsider. Similarly, the sexual tension between Joyride and Robby (Quinn Kelly ’13), which ultimately resolves itself in a murder, would have probably been much more enjoyable if you were acquainted with either of the actors involved.

The actors definitely hold the play together. Each of them, Michel-Schottman and Kelly in particular, are fearless and committed to their roles, strange as they may be. Michel-Schottman sticks to her New York street gang/Kenickie from Grease accent and pulls off a uni-brow beautifully. Kelly, dressed almost like a Reno 911! cop, also wholeheartedly executes his part as the harmless but nosy wannabe detective. Though the play as a whole could probably be categorized as a comedy, most of the humor really comes from those two actors.

The main themes of play involve the lengths that the media will go to get an audience and the horrible things that people watch. At one point, the house lights are turned on as Zoo reveals that the audience, as well as supposedly millions of others, are witnesses to the murder that took place in the play. Zoo gives yet another monologue about humans’ fascination with the grotesque, before loudly consummating his marriage with Riki on stage before the play ends.

There were a couple of technical kinks that made it difficult to stay within the state of willing suspension of disbelief for too long. While her multi-media approach was interesting, the director probably should have made the choice to cut some of the technological flare, which for the most part was unnecessary.

Everything from the overacting (although appropriate in a satire like this one) to the critical message about humanity to the gay jokes are things you would expect to see in a flashback on 30 Rock about Liz’s college theater days. That isn’t to say that there weren’t moments when the writer and the director succeeded in bringing the audience a fresh idea or two. There were some especially clever lines, along with the set and the direction of a couple scenes of which everyone involved should be proud. “Junk” did provide entertainment for the audience, but its overall message was not clearly conveyed.

Original Author: Julia Moser