By Mell Chhoy
At the beginning of every winter quarter, Ram’s Head produces the Original Winter One Acts — colloquially known as OWOA — featuring multiple original student-written plays. This year’s show was produced by Peter Morgan ’19 and featured “A Thousand Eyes” by Alli Cruz ’20 and “Rose Motel” by Megan Calfas ’18. From the moment I sat down in that dark little theater, I realized I was going to enjoy the show because I knew I was not getting a play about magic in a far-off land — I was going to see a show about the realities of the human condition and how we interact with loved ones.
“A Thousand Eyes,” directed by Josie Brody ’21, tells the painfully familiar tale of a student under too much pressure. Pina (Mina Mahmood ‘21), is a Filipino pre-med senior with overbearing immigrant parents who buckles under the pressure and commits herself to a mental hospital just weeks away from graduation. During her stay at the hospital, Pina quickly bonds with her roommate, Lucy (Miranda Johnson ‘21), a young, rich, white former model who helps her figure out that happiness really is important. In parallel to this tale of self-discovery, Pina tells the old Filipino myth about how the first pineapple came into existence, adding a little more depth to her story. “A Thousand Eyes” also features Alexis Dowdell ‘19 and Jacque Ramos ‘18 as Dr. Menlo (Pina’s mental health professional) and Pina’s sister, respectively.
I can safely say that “A Thousand Eyes” has a little bit of something for everyone. If you have felt self-doubt, familial pressure or anxiety about your future, this play would appeal to you. If you like watching someone overcome problems you can identify with, women empowering and helping each other, the explanatory power of mythology — or pineapple — this play would appeal to you.
The other play, “Rose Motel,” directed by Andy Kao ’19, also explores the mental health of a female lead. “Rose Motel” chronicles the misadventures of 17-year-old Jaime, played by (Cameron McClellan ‘21), who wanders into his aunt’s motel after he has been stood up for a date to the prom. Clad in a “retro” baby blue suit that even my father wouldn’t wear, Jaime realizes that his Aunt Rose and the other inhabitants of the motel are hiding something. “Rose Motel” also features Kennedy Kidd ‘21, Sam Roach ‘21, Olivia Popp ‘20 and Justin Muchnick ‘20.
“Rose Motel” will resonate a lot with those who have ever felt a loss. It’s a melancholy story that has many charming points: a quirky cast of characters, a bit of a devoted love, a tad of mystery, some cliché jokes and a couple tragic monologues. “Rose Motel” shows that family is made up of those who love you and support you through your worst problems, not just those you are genetically related to. It also shows that sometimes drowning your sorrows in sweetness isn’t the solution.
I loved this year’s production of OWOA. It’s an entirely student-run production, so of course I didn’t expect a Broadway-quality show, but it was delightful all the same. Many of the actors are current freshmen who have only begun their acting careers here at Stanford. While I personally found some of the acting to be a little awkward due to a mild lack of fluidity, I also found myself really connecting with the some of the characters as they delivered their monologues. A special kudos to Alexi Stein ’19, who played Rose in “Rose Motel”: Stein’s delivery of the final monologue was so spectacular that I got goosebumps when I saw it. Mahmood’s performance, while lacking a little bit of the manic energy I was expecting, was also exemplary; her opening monologue about the pressures of being pre-med and living up to expectations hit a little too close to home. Overall, I think OWOA was magnificent.
The writing talents of Cruz and Calfas are to be commended. Cruz really captures the sentiment of being a pre-med student who has to live up to the high expectations of immigrant or minority parents. Or at least, she managed to capture what I felt back when I used to be in that position. The dialogue Calfas wrote for Rose was spectacular in evoking that manic feeling you get when you deal with a deep personal loss.
OWOA was the perfect kind of catharsis a lot of Stanford students might need to start off what’s more than likely going to be another hectic winter quarter. If you didn’t catch OWOA this year, look for it next year.