Student-directed ‘Other Places’ play captivates audience

By: Emily Balli

Glendale Community College theatre truly wowed and moved audiences with their most recent production, “Other Places.” “Other Places,” a three-part play written by renowned British playwright, Harold Pinter, makes the audience think, as well as laugh about life, love and government with its many different surreal and realistic elements.

“As the plays go on, they get more realistic. They go from absurd and surreal to realistic,” said student director of “A Kind of Alaska,” Amber Steele.

The play also gave the audience a  unique experience by having them travel to three separate venues for each part of the play.

The first part of the play, “A Kind of Alaska,” took place on the main stage, the second part, “Victoria Station”, took place at the outside venue directly outside the performing arts center, and the third part, “One for the Road,” took place in the much smaller black box venue. GCC theatre made great use of all the spaces they have and took the title of the play literally – transporting the audience to ‘other places’ for each part of the play. The change in venue for each act created an exciting experience for the viewers and is something not many have experienced when attending other productions.

All three plays were directed by an extremely talented student director. “A Kind of Alaska” was directed by Amber Steele, “Victoria Station” was directed by Bailey Hall and “One for the Road” was directed by Eric Bond. The student directors have been involved in many other GCC theatre productions in the past, but had never tried their hand at directing until now. “By directing, I learned more about all aspects of a theatre production. It was my first experience directing and I loved it,” said Amber Steele.

Student directors Eric Bond and Amber Steele. Photo taken by Emily Balli
Student directors Eric Bond and Amber Steele. Photo taken by Emily Balli

Although it was each student’s directorial debut, they impressed audiences and peers with their ability to have such strong voices and direction. They worked hard and put a great amount of effort into making each play what they envisioned, and their hard work showed through in the final product.

Not only were the student directors able to show their tremendous talent in “Other Places,” but all of the actors and actresses shined in their roles as well.

In “A Kind of Alaska,” Dolores Carrillo played Deborah, a woman with sleeping sickness who had finally awoken after many years, was simply captivating. She was able to convey plenty of emotion and surrealism in her role. Throughout the play, her character continuously goes back and forth from a sort-of-reality to her strange confused dream world. Carrillo was able to perfectly portray a person who had just awoken from lethargica. Brandon Renfro, who played Hornby, Deborah’s doctor who awoke her with an injection, was also very strong in his role. As Hornby, Renfro came off as both emotional and serious all at once. Alexxis Briviesca played Deborah’s sister and Hornby’s ex-wife. She realistically portrayed a concerned, emotionally distraught sister extremely well.

Dolores Carrillo and Brandon Renfro in 'A Kind of Alaska' Photo taken by Amber Steele
Dolores Carrillo and Brandon Renfro in ‘A Kind of Alaska’ Photo taken by Amber Steele

In the second part of “Other Places,” “Victoria Station,” Jared Queen and Robert Beal were also excellent in their roles.

Both actors were able to keep the audience thoroughly entertained with their witty and comical portrayal of a taxicab dispatcher and taxicab driver.

The setting of “Victoria Station” was a dispatch office and a park somewhere in London, in 1987. As Queen angrily tried to communicate with Beal over the radio, Beal continuously made the strange situation rather funny. As funny as “Victoria Station” seemed on the surface, it did have a darker aspect to it as well, which made it interesting.

The last and most sinister act of “Other Places,” “One for the Road,” explores themes of police brutality, abuse of human rights and totalitarian government. This theme hit home for many because of the recent situation in Ferguson, Missouri. All four actors in “One for the Road” were raw and full of emotion. James Beneze, who played a twisted, evil police officer really broke out in his role as Nicholas. His cast mates Ursa Allred, Jack Melfi and Kendra Goodenberger also astounded and captivated audiences with their great amount of talent and sheer emotion.

James Beneze in 'One For the Road' Photo taken by Amber Steele
James Beneze in ‘One For the Road’ Photo taken by Amber Steele

The production wouldn’t have been what it was without the extremely talented set of crew and designers. The makeup and costumes really made each actor believable in their roles and couldn’t have been better.

All three sets were extremely well executed, contributing to the feeling of each act of the play. The lighting and sound also added to the overall message.

In “A Kind of Alaska,” the use of lighting and sound was most prevalent with surreal lighting and sounds that tied into Deborah’s state of mind.

All three parts of the play were vastly different, yet together they create a cohesive and wonderfully entertaining production.

Similarly, each student director had their own perspective and take on things, yet they worked together to create something truly phenomenal. “Eric, Bailey and I are all very different people but together we make a great team. We are the yin and yang of one another,” said Amber Steele.

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