With its latest production, UC Berkeley’s theater, dance and performance studies department, or TDPS, explored the intricacies of human connections through a series of short plays. “All in the Timing” consisted of four one-act plays by comedic playwright David Ives, all of which were directed by students in the department. On Friday at Durham Studio Theater, the student directors expertly guided the scenes to their full potential.
“Sure Thing,” directed by Carmel Suchard, depicts the conversation of two people who meet by chance, and every time their encounter veers toward awkwardness, a bell dings, resetting the exchange. What results is an introspective look into the many different routes a simple conversation can travel, depending on the timing and circumstances of the people involved. The actors who played Betty (Christina Nguyen) and Bill (Patrick Yorkgitis) were alluring in their roles, and they expertly juggled wildly varying levels of chemistry — all in accordance with the quickly changing dynamics of the fast-paced, restarting banter. The two conveyed fluctuating moods, from uncomfortable tension to lustful admiration, making each scenario believable and compelling.
Next up, Angelina Steshenko directed “Time Flies,” in which two mayflies find out through a nature show starring David Attenborough (Julian Schwartzman) that they only live for 24 hours, causing them to rethink everything they know about their world. The mayflies’ world was skillfully set up through the set design and the physicality of the actors to convey the creatures’ mannerisms. The interplay between Attenborough and the mayflies, May (Tori Ross) and Horace (Zane Martin), was especially notable — the two mayflies watched Attenborough on TV, while he watched them through his binoculars, with each side giving commentary on the other. The layered dimensions of one world were conveyed through the eyes of the flies, resulting in a fascinating look into what it means to be constrained by time.
“Time Flies” was followed up by Ceylan Ersoy’s “English Made Simple,” which chronicles different possible conversations that may occur between two people at a party — such as running into an ex or meeting a possible future date — while a narrator details the use of the English language within these interactions. The two leads, Jill (Julia Reilly) and Jack (Noah Weinstein), presented chemistry-filled interactions, whether they were playing acrimonious exes or two strangers engaged in small talk. Additionally, the narrator (Hailey Buck) was captivating and showed tonal versatility by explaining the moods of each variation. The three actors blended together effortlessly to display the complexities behind human interactions.
The production closed out with “The Universal Language” — arguably the highlight of the entire show — directed by Tanvi Agrawal. It depicts Don (Yorkgitis), a man running a con game by teaching a fake language, who meets Dawn (Danielle Altizio), a shy woman with a stutter, when she shows up to learn the fictional language Unamunda. At least half of the dialogue consisted of the made-up language, rather than English, meaning that the scenes relied on the actors’ physicalities and visual display of emotions to convey what was happening to the audience. The stage blocking of this play, expertly executed by Agrawal, was extremely vital, telling so much of the story. Meanwhile, Yorkgitis and Altizio both portrayed characters who were distinct, grounded and believable, all within the limited time constraints of the short play. Together, their chemistry radiated off the stage as they made their way toward finding a genuine connection through the unconventional route of this gibberish-like language. The audience didn’t need to understand what exactly was being said in order to become immersed in the relationship developing onstage.
Combined, these four plays examined the inner workings of connections that are made on a daily basis — each gave focus to an element of everyday life that was both distinct and easily recognizable to audience members. With a talented cast and crew behind the production’s charming narratives, the audience was completely captivated by the various connections being played out.
Contact Nikki Munoz at firstname.lastname@example.org.