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The Play-Goer: USNA Masqueraders’ ­ The Infinite Wrench

Theater like you’ve never seen it 

     The U.S. Naval Academy’s Masqueraders chose a daring format for their fall play, The Infinite Wrench: USNA Style
     The Infinite Wrench, according to its creators, the Chicago-based Neo-Futurists troupe, “is a mechanism that unleashes a barrage of two-minute plays for a live audience.” In each theatrical experience, 30 plays delve into the topics of the day as the performers have experienced them.
     With a little help from Neos Leah Urzendowski and Trevor Dawkins, The Masqueraders 14-person ensemble developed 86 plays. Each member wrote at least one, said Masqueraders director Megan Geigner. Then Geigner, Urzendowski and Dawkins winnowed the performers’ favorites to 40 plays. Thus this weekend’s selections will be slightly different than last.
     If there is a theme to this suite of 30, it is the impugning of stereotypes. Some highlight the performers’ experiences with being stereotyped. These include “tall guy” Reggie Miles in “Stop Asking,” who offers a litany of things he’s heard over the years — among them, “How’s the weather up there?” — and concludes with “If you just look at me for what my body says I am, you’re going to miss a lot.”
     In “I Am More Than Your Four Years of Spanish,” Puerto Rico native Frankie Colon marvels that anyone who’s had four years of Spanish comes out apparently knowing only “Hola. Cerveza, por favor.”
     Some pieces are silliness personified. Among those is “Urinal Chess,” in which Colon and Miles portray a guy at a long line of empty urinals and the other guy who stands right next to him.
     Others require audience participation. Of these, “Courtship According to Reef Points,” with Mike Ware and Allen Sand, is an insular yet funny play on the midshipman’s handbook.
    In “Deb’s Big Three,” love advice from a veteran, writer/performer Eli Vernon asks a woman seated near the front: “Is there anything wrong with your husband?”
     “He snores,” she says.
     But is she okay with that? “Yes,” she says, which goes to the first of the three points of advice: Be with the person and don’t try to change him or her.
     Veterans’ stories evoked poignant performances in plays based on Masqueraders’ interviews with 24 veterans.
    “A Collection of Reasons Why,” by Daniel Moriarty and the ensemble shares the range of reasons why the veterans chose to serve. It has the largest cast of these two-minute plays: Moriarty, Ware, Colon, Sand, Nick Hajek, Jess Velez, Julia Kalshoven, Spencer McVeigh, McKenna Niemer, Cody Oliphant and Ali Miller.
     Jess Velez’s “Thank You for Your Service,” performed by her and Ware, takes the point of view of a midshipman who gets thanked. Instead of such empty words, Velez insists, it’s more important to revamp the VA system, rehab the leaders and provide opportunities for vets.
     “I don’t want to look at photos anymore knowing four of those men are dead because they just couldn’t handle it,” she says.
     Simple attire and props make for smooth flow between plays. The tech crew — Shenandoah Daigle, Jesse DeVries, Hunter McGavran, Jacob Pittman, Chris Smith and Ruth Snipes-Soward — respond quickly to calls for spots and lights out. The only drawback is Mahan Hall’s acoustics. It would be a mighty challenge, indeed, to individually mike the performers. So, despite the performers’ ability to project, those with aging ears may want to arrive early and sit near the front. 
 
Run time, including audience instruction, is just over an hour. Final showings FSa 8pm, USNA Masqueraders, Mahan Hall, Annapolis, $13, rsvp: http://navyperforms.showare.com.