• WHAT: Two East Union High one-act plays
• WHEN: Tonight, 7 p.m.
• WHERE: East Union High Playbox Theatre
• TICKETS: $7 at the door
Everybody has had that one teacher.
That one instructor that just wouldn’t give you an inch of slack when it came to getting that assignment in on time – taking almost sadistic pleasure in watching their students suffer as a major assignment or huge test loomed.
And in the case of Alan Haehnel’s “Homework Eats Dog” – the first of a two-play performance put on by students at the East Union Playbox Theater – that honor would befall science teacher Douglas Kobekeaneski. He relishes the “The Hour of Desperation” where students are scrambling and coming up with every excuse in the book to try and get an extension.
But Kobekeaneski – brilliantly played by Enrique Ramos – doesn’t give extensions. Not once in the entire history of his 20-plus year career has he given a student extra time to turn in a monumental assignment. And he even has the excuses ranked according to year – a charming anecdote that he shares with the audience while listening to the tormented students try their best to spitball their way past his gruff exterior.
The play starts with Jane – played by Alyssa Greenway – who claims that she’s too stupid to comprehend that the assignment was due. Like all of those that will follow her, she uses her classmates to illustrate her point while Kobekeaneski stands high atop his platform symbolically looking down and casting mini-aspersions on those who dare challenge him.
Jane fails. And when Max – perfectly played by Christian Riley – tries to follow behind her and take a much more mature and adult approach in his interaction with the crotchety teacher, his story soon jumps the shark. We learn that an angel visited Max and told him that he was to start a new religion where he was only allowed to wear polka dots, had to recruit others by bribing them with tootsie rolls and must refrain from eating anything with a “ch” at the beginning. But he doesn’t have to do so right away. It must begin, Max says, when he’s 38 and three-quarters.
Naturally, Max fails. And when Diane – played by Meghan Wallace – tries to pawn off the fact that she has 17 identical twins, each of whom looks nothing like her, you know that Kobekeaneski is going to crack the whip and send her packing as well.
Part of the fun in all of this is the way that Ramos interacts with the crowd in between the outlandish claims made by his students – letting us all know that a student being approached by a spiritual entity and ordered to start their own religion was a big excuse during such-and-such year. It keeps it entertaining.
The true test comes when Aaron breaks down what is easily the most plausible of the stories – that he genetically engineered super rats that actually killed and ate his dog – and is stunned to find that Kobekeaneski, a fellow scientist, isn’t going to give him the extension he craves.
So Aaron – a character that Thespian Club President Brandon Wallace only had five-days to rehearse for – sends the box of bones to his former beloved teacher. And it sends the old man screaming for the exit.
Naturally the assignment is postponed until after the weekend.
What makes this story so great is the way that it unfolds and utilizes both an ensemble cast and a series of key characters that each adds their own personality to the mix.
Ramos is solid throughout, but so are the students telling the bizarre and ridiculous stories that you just know are sunk before they even get the words out of their mouth. This is about the ride and not the destination.
So show up, pay the $7 that helps cover the royalties, and buckle in. Comedy is comedy and there’s nothing better than an honest laugh that ends up meaning the world to a student on stage.