Anyone who has ever been in a relationship—or anyone ill-fated enough to have friends in relationships—knows first-hand how much a breakup can rock even the tightest-knit friend groups. Part true-facts, part satire and part courtroom drama, “The Ex-Trials” an original play written and produced by Savannah Kopp ‘14 and directed by Laura Petree ‘15, seeks to illustrate just that. Complete with gavel-wielding kidnaps, Watergate-tier reconnaissance and flirtation recapitulations, “The Ex-Trials” captures with accuracy and comedy of a group of five friends dealing with the aftershock of a nasty breakup.
After Jack and Erika—the couple formerly known as Jerika—part ways for ambiguous reasons, their three theatrical friends take them hostage and set them on trial. Hilarity ensues when the judge, jury and defendants take on revolving roles, casting blame and veiling bias in what becomes the O.J. trial of friendship, taking us back to the high school days of shenanigans and immaturity—oh wait, those are our college days, too. The five recount stories of failed flirtations, dubious fidelity and a custody agreement for a shared treasure while offering social commentary on those ‘compromises’ we think we make for our partners, and the sacrifices they make for us.
In the lead male role, James Seifert ‘15 meets the expectations he has set in other Stanford roles, namely as Leland Stanford Junior in this year’s “Gaieties” and in “Playing Co-Op,” both Ram’s Head productions. As in those roles, Seifert exhibits a skilled dorkiness, but ups the ante with slides of rage and diffidence in “Trials”. A more dynamic role than his previous parts, Seifert demonstrates a multi-faceted capacity hopefully to be harvested in his next three years at Stanford.
Nora Tjossem ‘15 plays the female half of Jerika with all the vindictiveness and acerbity reserved for the scorned teenage female. Though not quite the typical teenage girlfriend absorbed with 160-plus character text messages or obsessing over her boyfriend, Erika lists flirting, bossiness and aloofness as her vices. Tjossem plays her to a biting tee.
But it’s the energy of Austin Caldwell ‘15 that will have the audience in stitches. His brewing supply of energy surfaces, explodes, and then re-charges for the next right moment. Caldwell’s performance is an awe-inspiring feat, combining many caricatures into one character, which bears an effusive energy that flutters off the stage and will have the audience laughing.
“The Ex-Trials” wraps up with two plot twists worthy of “The Usual Suspects” that will have the audience laughing at just how absurd real life relationships are. The jealousy, vengeance, lusting and rejection that doom the breakups of our own lives become a hilarious pastiche in this Stanford original.
“The Ex-Trials” is funded by a Spark! grant from the Stanford Institute for Creativity and the Arts. The play will run in Roble Theatre at 7 p.m. on Friday, March 2, and 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Saturday, March 3.