Trouble in Hollywood

Review Over Theatre’s UIL One-Act Comedy Play


Photo by Anthony Whiting

Bouquets of white and red roses swap the chair-side tables of the hotel room foyer, puzzling the Hollywood stars Claudia McFadden played by junior Bryelle Swift and pictured Athena Sinclair played by senior Katie Smith. The public performance of Suite Surrender was shown at the school PAC on March 8. In my opinion the dynamics between the characters and fast-pace playwriting flowed together to create a great mystery encounter.

Anthony Whiting, Reporter

As the lights dim, the set of the luxury hotel in motion and characters dressed with suits, gowns, and work attire, mystery enthralls the stage to the reason behind the shared suite for two Hollywood actresses. In the golden age of Hollywood, Athena Sinclair and Claudia McFadden raise tensions for the building staff. Alerts grow increasingly high as the characters juggle the daunting task of keeping the two stars separate and ignorant.

While watching this comedic story unfold, I was surprised by the engaging narrative coupled with well received jokes and fast entrances to meet the UIL time limitations. From the beginning the two stars seem to have contrasting personalities as Athena, played by senior Katie Smith, desires white roses for her suite and portraits framed across the room. I thought that Smith acted out this polished and eloquent character well. She carried her head high, made grand entrances, and was assertive to the audience in-line with the need to be a glamorous actress. Her assistant Murphy, played by sophomore Cadence Teicher, hastily worked before Athena’s singing performance that evening.

In my opinion, Athena was played with a serene manner whereas Claudia McFadde, played by junior Bryelle Swift, possessed a fiery attitude. I enjoyed the originality of Swifts entrances with her teeth clenched, eyes bold, and shoulders raised. Expectantly, the two carried the play allowing the nervous reactions of the other characters.

Along with character dynamics, I thought the romantic twists between the moments of stress were executed well. Starting with Otis, a bellhop played by freshman Seth Loudenslager, wishes to deliver a rose to the assistant Murphy. He mistakenly concludes with both Pippet, another manager, and Athena Sinclair on different occasions while entering the suite. The audience understands more about the situation at times than the characters entering and exiting the stage which added all the more energy to see Pippet become so excited to believe he has a secret admirer and approach Otis. This allowed the multiple kissing scenes between Murphy and Otis to be gratifying to me, although exaggerated.

I noticed a common gender divide with the male characters of Dunlap, Pippet, Francis and Otis are subservient and the antithesis to the two actresses when they enter stage. Given the historical context of gender in the mid-twentieth century, I was reminded that even comedies can present serious world problems.

Being a short-length play different from the expensive musicals the department also puts on every semester, the costume and stage design was above average. I thought that the more neutral to cool color scheme reflected the time period well and the draped dresses for Athena and Claudia further dramaticized the situation. I even thought the difference in costume between the assistants, reporter and bellhops to the actresses clearly outlined status differences. The dark felt chairs and wooden interior of the suite contrasted well with the bright costumes and props like the rose bouquets and the stuffed animal white dog.

During the climax of the play, my interest peaked as the bellhops, managers and a news reporter were fainting left and right. It was clear Claudia McFadde loved her little, white dog, but this turns negative when the dog is dropped over the balcony facing the pool. I was highly entertained by the hyper-reactionary responses from a character covering his eyes in the corner to numerous characters dragged into a separate, enclosed room.

The realization for Athena and Claudia that they have been sharing this designated room turns hostile quickly. Both desire to be the center of the spotlight, or so it appears, over a captive audience with plenty of news to their names. I was surprised by the unexpected conclusion of the play.

Coming into the play, I didn’t quite know what to expect as I knew the theater department had focused on dramatic one-act plays in prior years for the UIL competition, but the comedy Suite Surrender was thrilling from start to finish. The interactions between all characters, one’s with numerous lines and those with few, felt natural and important.

The UIL one-act play cast in crew received first place overall at districts, and I think it is well-deserved. Additionally, students performed for a third time at the bi-district competition on March 23 and 24 at Davenport High School in San Antonio.