A week before the COVID lockdown in March 2020, I wrote a review on what was supposed to be the end of a decade-long experiment within CCM Acting called “Transmigration.”
Each year, the entire CCM Acting community would break up into six teams with each team creating a new thirty-minute play based on any topic of their choosing.
The result marries the make-shift mentality of Fringe Festivals to the aesthetic of a mad theatre scientist experimenting with primal forces. “Transmigration 2022” co-producer Patrick Koshewa echoed these sentiments when he told me that the event “gives the CCM Acting Students an opportunity to push the envelope and celebrate their creativity.”
The popular demand of students to have an opportunity to flex their devising muscles in creating new work made the event to return, according to co-producer and CCM professor Brant Russell.
I saw all six shows over the course of two evenings and will present my thoughts about each show in a more experimental way to reflect the experimental nature of the event itself.
What’s it about: A group of dogs at an animal shelter are hoping to be adopted by humans.
The play’s strengths: The play has a great concept of the actors as dogs (it won the audience over from the start of the play) and there was strong physicality by the actors playing the various dogs and Mittens the Cat.
The play’s weaknesses: Too many dogs were on stage at one time, meaning it was hard to concentrate on any one dog’s storyline. The storyline gets muddled as a result.
Memorable moments: When Mittens the Cat makes up with the rest of the dogs at the end of the play. It was a very touching moment that visibly moved the audience.
What’s it about: A group of sock puppets seek freedom from their oppressive human masters.
The play’s strengths: Great concept and execution. There were effective transitions between actors portraying the puppets and the puppeteers. The opening number where the puppets are singing was wonderful and takes me back to children’s television shows I’ve seen. There was also strong physicality on the part of the janitor who gets taken over by the sock puppets.
The play’s weaknesses: The play ends a bit too abruptly with a longish epilogue giving us the fates of the characters. I was hoping for more resolution (or at least a puppet insurrection of the capitol). At least the one puppet who wanted to be a sexy weather puppet gets her wish.
Memorable moments: There were several memorable moments, from the opening puppet number, the possession of the janitor (done in shadow theatre), and the possessed janitor meeting up with puppeteers.
What’s it about: A family Christmas dinner takes a dark turn for a stranger who comes to the family’s Christmas celebration.
The play’s strengths: Creepy concept and excellent execution. Every member of the family has a moment to shine without those moments feeling forced. The stranger also did a nice job balancing his social missteps with his need to escape from the family. I can’t too much more without spoiling some of the more important plot points.
The play’s weaknesses: The play’s ending could be clearer and more definite. We have a sense of what will happen to the stranger, but it could be communicated more effectively. The play felt like it runs out of steam.
Memorable moments: The Christmas song and dance number was deliciously over-the-top and the table confessions each family member makes were both funny and frightening.
QUIET! The Kids are Talking:
What’s it about: The patriarch of a large family brings together his two daughters and their families for board games and family confessions.
The play’s strengths: Great acting by the patriarch. He was channeling his inner elderly working-class Brooklynite a way that was believable. The rest of the cast hit the right level of family dysfunction brilliantly. It felt like a few family get-togethers I’ve attended (minus the vomiting from the rancid potato dish).
The play’s weaknesses: The vomiting from the rancid potato dish (I like my Transmigration plays free of the expulsion of bodily fluids and solids). The ending was a let-down. We find the reason why the patriarch gathers the family together on that particular day and nothing happens as a result. It was a non-event when there should be a bigger reaction. Also, the frequency of the fast forward interludes to indicate the passage of time became a distraction.
Memorable moments: What stands out to me is the increasing pileup of all those little awkward things that happen when members of an extended family that don’t know each other get together. I was getting flashbacks of family dinners of yesteryear. If I had to choose, it would be the husband of one of the fathers joining his nieces toking up in the kitchen.
404 Play Not Found:
What’s it about: Told in a series of vignettes, this play discusses our use (and abuse) of different forms of technology and the ways it reduces connection between people.
The play’s strengths: Because there were short vignettes, every actor had a chance to shine. The dance number towards the end of the piece was original and well executed. The vignettes were both funny and provocative, so you never knew where a vignette would take you.
The play’s weaknesses: Since they conducted the play in the round, sometimes it was hard to see what was going on with a few of the vignettes. Also, some of the vignettes fell flat. I didn’t get what they were trying to say. Finally, the title of the piece is not clearly explained within the proceedings of the play.
Memorable moments: The opening piece where a woman is swiping through possible dates, the sexy updating of Ronald McDonald and the Hamburglar, and the dance number at the end.
What’s it about: Unsuspecting college students join an experiment where a machine called A.R.D.E.N. takes them back to experience their childhood traumas.
The play’s strengths: This play was drop-dead funny. It wisely focuses on tween trauma which is a perfect place where social awkwardness and changing bodies collide. There were also some clever and wonderful visual elements that were unexpected and added to the effectiveness of the piece.
The play’s weaknesses: The ending of the play where A.R.D.E.N. has a meltdown could have been forecast more clearly in the beginning of the play. There is also a non sequitur between abbreviation of the play’s title and its connection to the play. I am not certain how Korrupt Individuals Destroy Society connects to what they presented in their play.
Memorable moments: The Dyslexia Perfume ad, the gunfight over cooties, as well as the poor guy stuck in the womb for 13 years desperate to escape. The special effects for that piece were outstanding. In short, there were too many good moments to record in this short review.
Transmigration was March 9-13, 2022.Alan Jozwiak is a local playwright, UC English Composition instructor; Comics Scholar; and with LCT for over 10 years.