Two one-act plays, “The White Liars" and "Black Comedy,” are currently showing at USC’s Lab Theatre as a double feature. Students Lane Christopher and Curtis Smoak each directed one show — Lane took on “The White Liars” while Smoak took the lead on “Black Comedy.”
“The White Liars” plot had so many layers that it was difficult to follow. There were some points at which all four characters were doing something separate from one another on the stage, yet were all equally important for us to pay attention to.
It was not easy to take in all of these things at once as an audience member. This may have been a conscious decision in order to communicate the convoluted events that arise out of messy lies, but there were times where there was simply too much going on to actually enjoy the play.
However, the acting was rewarding to watch. Alex Long and Nicholas Good exploded off the stage in dynamic monologues that revealed how little we as an audience knew about them — and showed us how little we ever actually know about anybody, even those we love the most.
While the show was overall well done and well received by the audience, it was not necessarily the kind of play that appeals to the masses. Some scenes had the audience rolling with laughter, but there were times at which the over-the-top comedy and the constant chaos made the play fall flat and overshadowed the poignant messages that were lying beneath the surface.
"Black Comedy" had similar threads with a plotline centered around elaborate lies and the consequences that come from them. The humor largely manifested itself in physical comedic acts as the show took place in an apartment with a blown fuse and the characters staggered around in the dark.
Some characters attempted to cover their lies while others attempted to uncover the truth; some tried to hide their true nature in the darkness while others tried to create light and see people for what they really were.
The actors poured themselves into the performance and the audience could feel that energy. We were wildly entertained by Brindsley Miller (Thomas Duncan) and his clumsy, somewhat uncomfortable navigation of the blacked-out apartment. Olivia Hensley did a stellar job as the clever, no-games girlfriend, and Owen Heckman’s smaller role as a lovable maintenance man brought light to a comedy set in total darkness.
The stage lighting was also particularly impressive in Black Comedy. The blackout was uniquely conveyed, fun to watch and added an underlying yet vital component to the show’s entertaining nature.
Even though there were important ideas not quite breaking through, the double feature certainly made for an exciting night. “The White Liars” and “Black Comedy” were both written by Peter Shaffer, and told exaggerated stories of honesty and trust — or lack thereof — that kept the audience on its toes and filled the stage with loud humor and unhinged antics.