"Crosswords: Class of ‘08 Reunion” premiered last weekend in the Barnelle Theatre. While at times the show can be frustrating, it has enough shining moments to capture its audience and make for an enjoyable, lighthearted night out.
Divided into seven interconnected one-act plays written by both alumni and students, “Crosswords” is framed around a high school class of 2008 attending their ten-year reunion. As with any film, play or book divided by segments, “Crosswords” is as strong as its strongest segment and as weak as its weakest. Luckily, the strongest segments are incredibly funny and clever, however, its weakest ones were quite boring.
This is not the first “Crosswords” play, as it is now an annual benefit for the Sam Wasson Scholarship Fund. Sam Wasson was a theatre arts major who died in a car accident in October 2007; to commemorate his life, the Department of Theatre Arts gives a scholarship to a student who “excels in both the performance and the technical sides of theater at LMU.” All of the profits from “Crosswords” benefit the scholarship.
The show opened with one of its weaker segments: “High School Never Ends.” It follows Maisie (Lauren Johansen, ‘08), who desperately tries to convince her husband, Jared (Rishi Arya), to ditch her reunion with her, as she is worried what her past peers will think of her current state. The one-act’s simplicity is its downfall: the characters are standard—Maisie is slightly neurotic and Jared is goofy yet comforting—and the jokes are straight out of a sitcom. There is not much to be done with lighting or blocking (outside of the occasional walking away or hugging), and the story remains straightforward to the end. The performances were good enough, but the content of the story is just too dry.
The show then upswings to its strongest link, titled “Time Capsule.” This segment seems almost identical to “High School Never Ends” in the beginning, but it quickly changes its tone. It tells the story of Ruby (Kate Spare) discovering her boyfriend Luke’s (Nate Weisband) time capsule from freshman year, where he professes his love for another woman. Both Spare and Weisband create caricatures of the jealous girlfriend and schlumpy boyfriend, respectively, and in doing so, develop a hysterical chemistry. By the end, the back-and-forth setup-punchlines start to become stale, only for a spectacular twist: the girl Luke loved was his biology teacher. The dynamic of the scene completely shifts, and therefore the story stays fresh.
Next is “The Pact,” one of the more story-oriented one-acts. This one follows a trio of best friends reuniting, only for two of their long-buried grudges to unleash on one another. Daniel Martinez Jr. (‘18) is the star of the segment with his wild, loud and quick delivery. He had the audience in stitches. The only detriment to “The Pact” is its bizarrely dramatic ending with the ghost of their dead friend, which only seemed to happen because the ghost has a major role in a later part.
“The 50 Yard Line” divides its story between two groups of two people, one of which is bitterly fighting about their past relationship, and the other waiting in line for the bathroom. The comedy comes from the contrast between the two groups, though there is initial confusion about how these two are connected. The performances were all good, and the jokes landed more often than not— it was simply the lack of connection between the groups that bogged down the one-act.
After a quick intermission came the story of a washed-up, alcoholic ex-jock meeting the ghost of a dead student (the ghost from “The Pact”), titled “School Spirit.” This is another of the weaker links in “Crosswords” because of its tonal imbalance. There are brutally dramatic moments, which are not only outshined, but also reduced by its light comedic moments. Worse, “School Spirit” rushes to its optimistic conclusion, with writer Nikki Goldwaser’s story quickened by the short runtime of each segment.
The penultimate segment, “Both Then and Now,” returns to the silly nature of “Time Capsule,” with every actor amping up the camp and having fun on stage. It is a classic romance of a girl dreaming about a boy from high school, worried that her weight makes her unattractive to him. There is a laugh-out-loud fantasy sequence and a heartwarming conclusion; it is a perfect addition to the lineup.
The most clever and original one-act finishes off “Crosswords.” Titled “To All the Dead Boys I’ve Slayed Before,” the finale, written and directed by Ariana Quñónez (‘12), catches up with a “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”-esque character (Lauren Elyse Buckley, ‘16) 10 years after she gave up her powers to close a portal to Hell at her high school graduation. It opens with her being interviewed by the wonderfully funny and energetic yearbook reporters Jessie and Josh (sophomore theatre arts major Claire Briggs and junior theatre arts and French double major Robert Kinsfather), only for one of her ex-boyfriends, the vampire Fang (Grant Garry, ‘10) to come talk to her about her life since high school. The shift between the yearbook interview and the conversation with Fang is a bit disorienting—it happens about halfway through the scene—but once the audience comes to terms with the change, it’s quite enjoyable and one of the highlights of the play.
“Crosswords” is enjoyable overall. The very nature of a collection of short plays keeps the momentum of the show up, so that even the unenjoyable, dry parts move along quickly. I do look forward to seeing what next year’s has in store.
This is the opinion of Jacob Cornblatt, a sophomore film production major from Gaithersburg, Maryland. Tweet comments to @JacobCornblatt or email comments to email@example.com.