“Hello Out There” and “A Happy Journey from Trenton to Camden” Reflect on Love and Tragedy

Annalee Glatus
  Staff Writer

This past weekend opened the UNCG Masters of Fine Arts directing students one-act performances. They performed in the cozy upstage cabaret at Triad Stage. In all, there were four total plays, two were performed on Thursday and two on Friday and all four performed once again on Saturday and Sunday.

Unfortunately, I was only able to attend the two on Friday. Both of these plays showed dynamic relationships and the immediacy that follows passion. When a play is only one act there is not a hefty amount of time for background and context to be explained so most of the time you are swept immediately into a situation. Often there are many questions throughout the play because nothing is explained completely.

This was the case for the play “Hello Out There by William Saroyan. Set in a small-town Texas jail, the play starts with one of the characters being thrown in jail because he has been accused of rape. After a moment of tension and frustration, he starts screaming out “hello out there!” to see if there is anyone is the seemingly dark jail. After a while a voice answers. The voice is a girl who is the cook at the jail, named is Emily.

As the play continues the guy and girl start to fall in love. The guy is sweet and gentle when Emily is there but when she leaves he becomes enraged. I found myself conflicted on whether this guy actually loved Emily or if he just wants to use her to get out of jail. There is no background on his actions, only that he claims to be innocent. We eventually learn his name is ‘Photo-Finish’ (PF) after his “Photo-Finish races.”

He wants Emily to go get her father’s gun but she refuses because she doesn’t want to leave him alone. She is scared when she leaves he won’t be there when she gets back. He gives her 80 dollars and says if he isn’t here when she returns to go to San Francisco and find a nice man. In a tender moment the guy kisses her and urges her again to go find a gun. Emily then runs off stage.

While she is gone, the husband of the girl that Photo-Finish supposedly raped comes into the jail. He has a gun and aims it at him. The husband circles around the cell for a bit while PF tries to argue with him. After a bit of thought, the husband shoots PF three times, leaving him for dead. When the husband leaves, Emily returns without her father’s gun.

PF is on the ground, dying. He urges her to leave him and go to San Francisco and then collapses on the ground, now dead. Emily leaves. The cops, the husband, and the wife accusing him of rape then enter. The wife confirms PF raped her and the cops take his body away. Emily then rushes in ordering them that they can’t take him. They completely disregard her, call her a slut then leave.

The play ended with Emily walking into the now open jail cell asking “hello out there?” This play contains the electricity of love at first sight, with a touch of mystery suspense. It completely captivated me and kept me on the edge of my seat.

The second play, “A Happy Journey From Trenton to Camden” by Thornton Wilder. This one act wasn’t  as intense as the first and had a more upbeat story line. It follows a family of four as they take a trip to Camden to see the eldest daughter who just got out of the hospital. The play consists of the family bonding on a road trip, while pointing out things they see out the window.

The play is light hearted with some light comedic moments. The actors had excellent family chemistry. They laughed, they argued, and they joked with one another. The end of the play contains a heartbreaking scene in which the eldest daughter recounts here experience in the hospital where she lost her baby. The play ended with this tender moment between a mom and daughter embracing. This play was heartfelt and sweet. It reminded me of my family road trips and the light ease of a road trip in the country.

The MFA One Acts showcase the great talent that UNCG draws into its theater program. Masters students are expected to direct and stage these productions, as well as further interpretations of the pieces. It continues to be one of UNCG’s more intimate evenings of performance.

Categories: Arts & Entertainment

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