By Jenevieve Monroe
Culture and News Writer
Lights, sarcasm, and anecdotal humor: “Keeping It Real” will keep you laughing at just how relatable the student experience can be at Saint Mary’s.
The festival opens with its first act “Uprooted,” a satirical commentary on the challenges that international students face in academic settings. Actor and scriptwriter Sejal Bahl stars as the protagonist, Samaira Bhattacharya, a young immigrant who learns to navigate the “new, scary, tiring, and alienating” social dynamics found within American culture. “We wanted to show the lives of people our age,” said the closing Directors’ Note. “Writing our own plays, directing them, and designing for them allowed us to do this in a way that was accessible to audiences while still being true to ourselves.”
These values can be seen in the festival’s second act, titled “An Awareness of Eccentricity” by Thomas Bradvica. Talk about relatable! The playwright protagonist, played by Ryanne Biernat, struggles to maintain her sanity while accomplishing an “all-nighter” assignment. The dialogues between cast members were witty, eccentric, and on the verge lucid; however, I couldn’t get over the dramatic performance of Lydia Miller’s “Man 2.” The mustache and scatterbrained nature of Miller’s character were riveting to watch.
Following the second performance was one just as chaotic, witty, and well-orchestrated. The act “Sweet Expectations” encompasses a complex web of different identities and how they interact with each other. Writer Grace Clinton fabricated a storyline of family chaos that will leave you either empathizing or in awe of the protagonist’s resolution (played by Kendra Eisenmann). “Our experiences overlap in a complex web,” wrote the festival’s directors. “We, as playwrights, directors, and designers are excited to share our work with you.”
The festival shifted to a more serious, musical commentary on the challenges of social conformity in the fourth act. The screenplay “Unmasked” tells a student’s journey of self-love and acceptance in the face of familial and peer judgment. You’ll hear some classic Disney favorites sung by screenwriter and actor Aero England, whose voice was a phenomenal asset to the plot.
The final act received roaring laughter from the crowd. Written by Sarah Shaughnessy, the fifth act “Seminar 103” is a painfully relatable satire on how unpredictable Socratic dialogues can be in the classroom. Each character brought their own flavor of chaos, particularly Weston Wheatley’s portrayal of “Finance Bro.” Prepare to hear humor at its most unfiltered!
Overall, this festival unites diverse stories of our student body through the creativity and passions of Saint Mary’s Theater Program. “There is no one way for every individual to experience the same reality,” wrote the directors. “From plays that challenge and subvert our expectations, whether that be about class or life itself, to ones that reflect truths about our identities, we all hope that you can find ‘our’ reality.”
Madison Sciba '24,