Lunchbag Theater is a sort of spring semester institution at K-State. Now operated by Prof. Charlotte Macfarland, the class for actors and directors stages weekly performances of one-act plays.
The first of the offerings I saw this spring wasn’t really a one-act but rather a series of three dramatic monologues, the middle one intercut with pedestrian commentary by a second character. The entertainment was Neil Labute’s Bash, and it was directed by Christopher Auten.
Each of the monologues features references to religion and murder, though the two subjects are not obviously related via events. In the first bit, “Iphignia in Orem,” a Mormon character played by the intense Zach Nusbaum remembers, perhaps erroneously, his own indirect killing of his infant daughter—this story he tells, apparently to a prostitute hired and brought to a hotel room to hear what he has to say.
The second, “A Gaggle of Saints,” featuring Nusbaum and with interjections by Tegan Perkins, tells what happened the night of a big party in a city hotel when the men let their dates go upstairs to rest for a few hours while they themselves crossed into a park for a little homosexual bashing in a men’s room.
The last, “Medea Redeux,” has Amanda Garvey telling about her character’s twisted and surprise revenge on a junior high teacher who seduced her.
All were powerful. All were well-rehearsed. I’m not sure that “Bash” transcends the limitations of its monologue form, but the young actors made as much of Labute’s competent and chilled language as they could.
A couple of weeks later we saw Libby Uthoff’s take on Susan Glaspell’s one-act “Suppressed Desires.” This was a relatively predictable attack on psychological therapy and began with a Freud enthusiast (Henrietta, played by BeckiJo Neill) insisting that old moral conventions needed to change to allow unconscious impulses, communicated through dreams, to be acted upon.
Her husband Stephen Brewster (Kevin Payton) was tired of hearing this. Her Illini sister Mabel (Olivia Sieck) didn’t know what to make of the theories when they were discussed during her stay with the Brewsters. Her dream about being a chicken, though, led Henrietta to insist on therapy for Mabel. Stephen signed up for some therapy sessions in self-defense.
And the rest I think you can imagine. The design of the production was clean, and the direction kept things rolling.
Then last Thursday we had another entertainment, a very brief play called “Finger Food,” directed by Auten. This two hander was a comedy, making the photographic session for a wine ad into a playground of sexual innuendo. “This is not smut—” photographer Bennet announced, “This is advertising.”
He is trying to convince his replacement hand model (Sieck) that he is safe to work with. “I promise you, flesh leaves me cold.” She, on the other hand, needs to convince him that she is accomplished enough to be his subject. She has specialized in “character work,” providing hands representing those of a much older woman.
But wait. She thinks she was called in to do a Little Friskies ad. After she rolls around on the floor with a ball of yarn, he tells her they are doing wine and she complains, “My whole preparation was tuna.”
During the actual photography sequence, the lighting suggests a series of flashes, so there was more than joking around to this “Finger Food.” But even if it had been all by itself, the joking around was amusing enough.
The next show in the series is on Thursday, April 19, at noon in the historic and haunted Purple Masque in East Memorial Stadium—right out the back door of the Union. Admission is free, and audience members are invited to bring their lunch with them.