After a year of sitting through Advanced Drama’s not-so-modern-English plays, A Thurber Carnival was a refreshingly modern carousel of unrelated scenes. Some of them were comedic and others were dramatic, but all of them ended with a (somewhat) moral punchline. With minimalistic sets, each scene was heavily dependent on the actors’ skills to effectively tell a story in a short amount of time.
The scenes that had narration used it creatively, embedding the narrator’s voice and weaving it between the dialogue. While most of the scenes were well received by the audience, others were lacking due to poor execution and choices the actors made.
THE NIGHT THE BED FELL
The first scene was the longest, and confusing from the start- it wasn’t clear until halfway through that the narrator, played by Luke Brown, was telling a story of a domino effect in his household. Because he was the only character speaking in this scene, the bulk of the responsibility of making sure the audience understood rested on him. While the other characters’ physical expressions and movements played into it too, I found that the story was told more effectively verbally rather than physically.
The way he pulled the other characters like puppets as he told the story was definitely creative- I’d never seen anything like it before. This is where the puppets played their part-entertaining as they froze in faces of horror or frenzy. As the narrator mimicked voices of the puppets he moved, I could tell that he mastered the quick changes of inflection in his voice.
It’s hard to listen to one person monologuing for as long as Luke did. I have no idea how he did it, but he was dynamic enough to keep our attention for the entire time. Not many people can keep an audience’s eyes and ears for that long.
Conclusion: Luke Brown is the world’s best storyteller.
The only thing I was confused about was his intended audience. The way he broke into dance as carnival music played didn’t make sense, and he seemed to be aware of an audience of sorts- periodically asking for laughs as he told jokes.
My best guess is that he was supposed to be part of a failed sideshow at a carnival, or an entertainer of sorts.
THE UNICORN IN THE GARDEN
Hilarious. After digesting the sideshow, this scene was short and sweet. It lasted less than four minutes, yet managed to earn laughter from the audience. Two things stood out: the wife and the plot twist.
Claudia Moreno, who played the wife, had maybe six lines. But damn can that actress make choices. Just the way she held her posture conveyed the pretentious attitude of her character, from the way she snubbed her husband to when she talked to the police and psychiatrists.
The plot twist earned more laughter than the moral, because it was so unexpected. The moral wasn’t received as well because (let’s be real here)-many high schoolers won’t get the older meaning behind “booby”. Thankfully, our generation got the irony of using one’s exact phrases flipped back onto them.
However, I could picture the entire scene without a narrator. Sure, laughter may have been lost from the interactions between the police and psychiatrist, but the punchline would still have had the same effect.
THE LITTLE GIRL AND THE WOLF
Small giggles for this one. The whole ‘modern take on old fairy tales’ is overplayed, and this joke seemed too easy. This set was one of the thinner ones that required the two actresses to carry the scene through their actions. While the wolf and the girl were talking to each other, the actions didn’t reflect their relationship strongly enough for me to feel anything at the end. The wolf should have been more predatory, and the little girl should have been cowering as if she were actually prey.
The moral of this story was a 67/100. Cliche, maybe deserves a little haha. My thoughts on it: all generations have the same villains, but the victims get smarter?
MACBETH MURDER MYSTERY
“Do you like Macbeth?” “No.”
Just summarizing the thoughts that everyone had watching this year’s Advanced Drama productions. I didn’t feel any comedic value during Macbeth Murder Mystery, but the topic was interesting- listing out the rules for a murder mystery.
I’d like to say that the actors could have made better choices- it just felt like two people talking to each other. I couldn’t tell if She ( yes, that’s the female character’s name) was supposed to be passionate about old fashioned murder mysteries, or just knowledgeable.
Was He (yes, that’s the male character’s name) interested in the topic? He didn’t really contribute to the scene in a memorable way, so I felt that this scene could have just been She monologing about the cliches of a murder mystery.
(It was also hard to understand at some points, so I might have missed some key parts that would’ve added some flavour to this scene)
THE LAST FLOWER
Sweet and poetic. When I first recalled this scene, I could’ve sworn the narration came from a third person. But no, one look at the cast list and I found that it was narrated by the characters.
I guess I was too invested in the actions of the cast- it was borderline mesmerizing. Tessa Ziegler and Zavion Jones- two very talented people who know how to make choices.
Through simple narration, they were able to convey that circle of beauty and destruction that humanity is.
I wish I could say more, but the simplicity and depth of this scene in addition to the talent of these actors was stunning.
MR PREBLE GETS RID OF HIS WIFE
In this entire show, this scene stood out for the development of the characters and the storyline. I’d say the only problem was the interaction between Mr. Preble and his stenographer. It was slightly lacking because the relationship between them hadn’t properly been established before that mini-scene was over.
But once Mr. Preble and Mrs. Preble interacted, their relationship was immediately established. Lauren Williams and Jason Frey, wow. The way they played their complicated relationship was entertaining (high schoolers love sexual innuendos). Jason made Mr. Preble seem childish and somewhat immature, which definitely connected to his disorganized characteristic later on in the scene, and Lauren’s calm and frosty attitude made the plot twist oh-so-perfect.
Lauren Williams- wow. Anybody can speak lines with emotion, but the way she took on the role of a smart and calculating wife was beautiful. Even her walk down to the basement was cold.
It was a mid-length scene, but God was it amazing.
THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY
This scene creatively touched on PTSD and living in one’s mind, and can I just say that I loved the way the Walter Mitty’s mind was depicted to the audience.
The flashes between reality and his mind was definitely helped along by the narrator (were aviators a good choice?) , but Joshua Lau, who played Mitty, held the bulk of it. He was able to successfully change from quiet submissive husband to a person certain of what they were doing.
I even felt bad for Mitty when his wife berated him. His small, beaten down demeanor didn’t reflect the person he was inside- a past self, stuck in his Air Force days. I must admit, the doctor scene didn’t really suggest PTSD, but because he’s an ex-serviceman (according to the narrator) and because his wife wants him to see a doctor, Mitty definitely had some form of mental problems.
The Wolf at the door
I’m going to be real here. I could not hear a word of this scene. The music was way too loud and the actors just couldn’t compete with that. So I’ll just critique the visuals.
The father was reading his newspaper, so that suggests morning, and a gentleman caller came to the door. The daughter then danced with the visitor and ran off with him. I must admit that the dance scene was cute, but didn’t make any sense.
By the time the moral came around, I guess the actors just gave up on trying to be heard. Father said the moral as he was getting up to exit, and from what I saw, he didn’t commit.
2/10- Everyone in the audience was confused and it seemed like a random event with no punchline ending.
As it was Advanced Drama’s last show, it was great finally seeing something in modern English. It was funny, deep, and entertaining throughout (mostly). I understand how the short story format was challenging, because characters had to be established quickly and through mostly non-verbal actions. Thankfully, Advanced Drama’s kids took on that challenge and were able to deliver a show that audiences enjoyed.