Review: ‘A Game For Pete’ shines

Alexander McCall

A one-man-show with 15 actors, a modern interpretation of the parable of the Prodigal Son and the frenzied relationship between a Texan and a Frenchman are all plays you might find on a college campus. 

In a mixed night of tragedy, drama and humor, the New Play Festival, presented last weekend, showcased student-written, -directed, -produced and -performed works.

The festival is presented annually by Playcrafters, a student theater organization open to all majors, which produces student-run theater events throughout the school year.

Morgan “Smurfy” Stewart, who graduated from Appalachian State University in 2012, wrote and submitted his play “A Game For Pete” specifically for the festival after writing plays in high school and being involved in the festival since 2007. 

This was his third play in as many years to be selected anonymously from the club’s submissions to be performed at the university.

Stewart sees the collaborative aspect of the festival as a learning experience for students of all levels of involvement in the production, in a different way than the theater department offers.  

“In many cases you’ve known your director and writer for a great deal of time, so you have to learn to see them as authority figures, or develop a working respect for their unique processes,” Stewart said. “The challenges are unique, as you can imagine getting a large group of 20 year olds in the same room over and over can present some extraordinary challenges.”

True to this comment, he describes “A Game For Pete” as essentially a one-man-play with 15 actors.

The storyline follows main character Pete, played by freshman Cody Watkins, and his three subconscious self-representations, played by Will Vogler, Darius Gregory and Glenn Driskill, as he finds himself in purgatory after suffering a heart attack in a hypnotist’s office. In a deal with the reaper, played by Carmen Lawrence, Pete explores and relives significant life moments in attempts to save his own soul.

The play paints the imperfect picture of Pete’s past, exploring very specific moments that make sense to be flying through the mind of someone afraid of dying miserably – Pete is bombarded with memories of childhood baseball, imagining his parents naked, and long conversations with his personified cat. 

These subjects are treated with both the seriousness they would deserve and the fitting tongue-in-cheek criticism of the bitter and witty 20-something through whom they are told. A frantic chorus of 15 Petes bounces ironically from introspective monologue to singing LCD Soundsystem. 

The performance was well executed by all members of the cast, who collectively worked to bring a sort of realism and comic relief during increasingly abstract situations.

Some scenes could have benefited from less explanation, but each too-long interaction was appropriately followed by spurts of action.

Once the action did pick up, cast members responded with excellent timing and characterization, especially during the more frantic and “imaginary” situations.

Overall, the writing and directing of this production worked very well together, especially given the use of the small space in which the festival took place.