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Curtain Call's "Paper or Plastic" and "Tracks"

by Jessiah Hulle - University Communications | Dec 01, 2016
Paper or Plastic and Tracks Playbill
The University of Valley Forge (UVF) theater group, Curtain Call, performed two one-act plays this semester, presenting its rendition of Werner Trieschmann’s comedy “Paper or Plastic” and Peter Tarsi’s drama “Tracks” at Krempel’s Theater. The show was directed by Yolanda Alvarez Maldonado with co-directors Sydney Hampton and Kyle Hinton and starred current UVF students.
 
The first show, “Paper or Plastic,” was an absurd comedy centered on Sarah, played by sophomore Stephanie Hamel, an average American teenage girl on the first day of her new job at a local supermarket known as Puritan Foods. Although Sarah tries to excel in her job to avoid dreaded employment at a fast-food chain restaurant, the quirky, bizarre, and sometimes downright irritating individuals around her prevent her job from going smoothly. The torment of working at Puritan Foods is initially perpetrated by her boss — a recurrent Employee of the Month winner who just can’t seem to get her name right — played by Curtain Call newcomer Hunter Mashtare. Her coworkers, a motley crew of characters, only add to her frustration. They include the apathetic egoist Regina, the outlandishly disillusioned Kenny, and try-hard shopping cart aficionado Sam, individually played by sophomore Isabel Wallace, sophomore Joseph Battistella and junior Danielle Debley, respectively. 

Furthering Sarah’s disenchantment with her cashier job is the clientele of Puritan Foods, a peculiar bevy of customers who can’t seem to answer the simple question that Sarah has been instructed to ask each patron: “Paper or plastic?” The audience is thus treated to a screwball situation comedy in which Sarah struggles to deal with customers ranging from a dull-witted cowboy to a tabloid-enthusiastic conspiracy theorist, played by supporting cast members Andrew Leeman, Blaine Cooper, Stephan Erickson, Briahna Rivers and Olivia Gordon who performs a double-role as both a shaky hypochondriac and a tech-obsessed juvenescent. Also notable is a recurrent cameo by Assistant Director Kyle Hinton as the droll store announcer, a small but hilarious follow-up to his breakthrough performance in Curtain Call’s spring 2016 production “I Am Not a Robot.”
 
The second show, “Tracks,” took a sharp turn from the levity of the first play. An eschatological drama set in an off-putting afterlife of a subway terminal, the play pits 10 characters against each other in a debate of life and death and, inevitably, heaven and hell. One of the characters, a grizzly war vet played by Andrew Leeman, does not fear the approaching subway train and its unknown destination, claiming instead, “I’m ready to move on. I’ve seen hell … in Korea.” Similarly, a nun at the terminal, played by Danielle Debley, tries to convince some of the younger characters to board the train with an unknown destination when it arrives, her faith placed in a merciful God whom she believes will ultimately do right. 

Others in the group are not so easily convinced. Many of the terminal’s newcomers seem destined for damnation: an embezzler, an amoral professor, a runaway delinquent, a regretful man-slaughterer, and various other "sinners" round out the heterogeneous cluster, each played somberly by cast members Hamel, Wallace, Mashtare, Battistella, Gordon, Cooper, Erickson and Rivers. As “Tracks” progressed, it proved to not only resemble a Kübler-Ross five stages of grief thought experiment on both the horrors and ultimate relief of death, but also an existential sojourn into the occasionally nihilistic view of human mortality.
 
Director Yolanda Maldonado shared afterward that she picked the two dichotomous performances for Curtain Call because she felt that too often a focus on only comedy or only drama is perceived as a lack of theatrical skill. “I feel like there needs to be skill in both genres,” she stated. “I wanted the actors to stretch themselves in that way, to be able to perform not only comedy, but also drama.” 

An alumna in attendance, Lindsay Brace ’16, had a similar comment about the production. “I really appreciate how the performances offer something serious and something funny ... thought-provoking and entertaining,” said Brace. And entertaining the night was, ranging in mood from laughter-inducing joviality to weighty contemplation of the destiny of humanity. Picking such opposite plays was a bold move for Curtain Call, but it paid off well in exemplifying the tenacity of directors Maldonado, Hinton and Hampton and the versatility of actors Hamel, Wallace, Mashtare, Battistella, Leeman, Gordon, Cooper, Debley, Erickson and Rivers. After four performances of “Paper or Plastic" and "Tracks” on Nov. 4, 5, 12 and 13, 2016, Curtain Call is currently slated to begin work on its Spring 2017 project.