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Review: ‘One Acts’ highlights Paly Theatre’s season finale

Ketan Altekar-Okazaki
Junior Eliza Stoksik and senior Miya Joshi fight it out in a scene in the play “Dinners & Sinners” as part of “One Acts,” Paly Theatre’s latest production. “One Acts” is a six-act program that is completely produced, directed, and written by students. According to senior Rori Escudero, who played Charlie in the play “Funny Business,” having a student direct the plays invites a unique interaction between the actors and directors compared to the typical plays Paly Theatre produces. “It can be a little bit intimidating when it’s an adult as a director because you’re like, ‘Oh, I want to impress them,’” Escudero said. “With a student as a director, it’s slightly different because with a student, they will either call you out more or they will call you out less. So, it’s an interesting dynamic.”

A disastrous date with the boss’s girlfriend? A crazy fraternity initiation challenge?

These are just two of the six captivating plots featured in Palo Alto High School’s final theater program “One Acts” performed from Thursday to Saturday in the school’s Performing Arts Center.

The “One Acts” performance featured six unique student-directed plays, each delivering a compelling narrative in a show that lasted just under two hours. This year’s lineup — consisting of “Train to Tomorrow,” “Grin & Bear it,” “Funny Business,” “Dinners & Sinners,” “Unboxing Time” and “Greek Brogurt” — made for an exceptionally engaging and memorable show.

“Train to Tomorrow” (Written by Marcello Attardi and Anna van Valkenburg and directed by Anna van Valkenburg and Aether Yun)

“Train to Tomorrow” follows the journey of three friends who illegally hop onto a mysterious train in search of adventure. They find themselves in a caboose where a static-filled voice from a radio hints at danger on the train, raising their suspicions. As the trio makes their way to the front, they are caught by the conductor, but they manage to escape. Eventually, the trio reaches the lead car of the train to meet the mysterious caller from the beginning. When the conductor discovers them at the front of the train, a confrontation ensues, resulting in the conductor’s death and granting the foursome control over the train’s operations.

“Grin & Bear it” (Written and directed by Annalise Klenow)

“Grin & Bear It” tells the story of a seamstress named Novellus, who is grieving her late husband and channels her emotions into crafting teddy bears. At the fabric store, she meets Greg and they soon connect when Novellus attends a dinner at Greg’s house. There, she meets Jimmy, a carpenter who is suffering from health conditions. As Jimmy’s health deteriorates, Penelope brings her handmade bears to comfort him. In his final days, Jimmy entrusts Penelope with selling his carpentry work, seeing a continuation of his craft and passion in her. After Jimmy passes away, he requests for Penelope to join the family gathering in grieving his death.

“Funny Business” (Written and directed by Aashi Agarwal and Matthew Arradaza)

“Funny Business” is a musical that portrays an awkward romantic incident in a workplace, featuring parodies of well-known songs like “Another Day of Sun,” “Gaston” and “We Are All In This Together.” Hudson lands a job in a demanding environment where the boss insists on efficiency. The narrative escalates when Hudson goes on a disastrous date with Charlie, an employee, and later, in a twist, the boss reveals Charlie is actually her girlfriend. Following a violent altercation, Hudson is fired. However, the workplace atmosphere significantly improves after the employees successfully persuade the boss to rehire him, ultimately restoring a normal and harmonious work environment.

Dinners & Sinners (Written and directed by Eloise Dumas and Abigail Friedland)

In the play “Dinners & Sinners,” Jamie behaves disruptively in class and is notably agitated, and his grades are dropping. During a tension-filled dinner, there is a suggestion to dismiss Rick, Jamie’s teacher, following some serious complaints about his teaching. On the side, an extremely awkward conversation ensues between Ricks’ daughter, Stephanie, and Jamie, during which Stephanie confesses her love, but Jamie hastily runs away. Amidst the turmoil, Rick is accused of being a pedophile. Jamie then reveals that his mother, under the guise of attending activities, has been romantically involved with a teacher. This revelation sparks outrage among the characters, leading to a violent fight involving everyone at the dinner.

Unboxing Time (Written by Trevor Axelrod and Brendan Giang and directed by Trevor Axelrod)

“Unboxing Time” explores the dynamic between two brothers, Alex and Blake, who delve into their family’s past by searching their parents’ old house for relics. Their subtle rivalry frames their discovery of a suitcase that leads Alex into a story about white rabbits. This rabbit embarks on a fantastical journey to a palace, where it meets and falls in love with another rabbit, Daisy, eventually starting a family. However, the story is abruptly ended, leaving Alex to finish writing the story day and night, skipping Blake’s birthday and multiple meals. After finishing the story, Alex finds his father’s final letter brimming with love for his children. This discovery leads the brothers to embrace the idea of loving each other, uniting them in newfound harmony.

Greek Brogurt (Written by Kyle Vetter and directed by Kyle Vetter and Raeya Wohlmorantz)

“Greek Brogurt” follows the journey of two college “bros,” Brandon and Brock, who want to join a fraternity. As part of their fraternal initiation, they must complete bizarre tasks: Brandon needs to pretend to be a snake and bite someone, while Brock must kiss the first person they see. Amid these challenges, tragedy strikes when Brock’s mother passes away, plunging the group into conflict as Brock mourns her death and Brandon’s apparent indifference temporarily deepens the tension. During a fight between them, chaos ensues when Brock’s father is accidentally killed by Brock. In a twist, Brandon ends up biting Brock’s aunt’s neck and falling in love, while Brock kisses a computer screen displaying his resurrected mother. Eventually, both of them are accepted into the fraternity with high honor.

According to senior writer and director Matthew Arradaza, directing his own play has been a vastly different experience than acting in it.

“Directing has been so much fun,” Arradaza said. “It’s great to be in the back and watch your cast make the magic happen. Every single night is always a little different because they [the actors] always add some sort of different spice or element to it.”

Arradaza said that looking back, one of the toughest obstacles was the short turnaround they had as well as the complexity of having actors and a live band.

“We went for the highest production value we possibly could with a band, and we easily had the most amount of people we needed to work on for this particular project,” Arradaza said. “We had a lot of struggles in terms of having people sync up with the band and connecting the band to the cast.”

According to senior actor Rori Escudero, who played Charlie in “Funny Business,” the three-week turnaround was especially hard for rehearsing a musical.

“We were the only full musical for ‘One Acts,’ it was a lot of preparation ahead of time to learn the songs, the new lyrics, the lines, the blocking and the dancing,” Escudero said. “It’s a lot of different elements at once. So that was a fun process.”

Arradaza said “One Acts” gives more people opportunities to have a featured role in a play. 

“The casts are smaller, and people get to know each other a little better within the cast and have the unity and community building that I really enjoy,” Arradaza said. “It’s very fun to just be free and vulnerable, unlike other shows.”

According to Escudero, while watching the other plays during the performances, she was able to enjoy a vast array of different plots and acting styles.

“I really like that there’s such a wide range in characters and the type of characters you can play,” Escudero said. “There’s a lot of variety in the plays and how dramatic you can be because there’s only three shows and they [the acts] are super short. You can really go far with it and do the best you can with your acting.”

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About the Contributors
Maxwell Zhang
Maxwell Zhang, Senior Staff Writer
Maxwell Zhang (Class of 2024) joined The Voice his sophomore year and wishes to pursue management and STEM in college.
Ketan Altekar-Okazaki
Ketan Altekar-Okazaki, Senior Staff Writer
Ketan Altekar-Okazaki (Class of 2024) joined The Voice his junior year and enjoys volunteering in his free time.

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