308-B Opens with a Bang
By Nia Sanders
April 23, 2015
This has been a very strong year for theater at the University at Albany. The theater minor was revived, and the University at Albany Musical Theatre Association produced yet another captivating performance titled “308-B,” shown on April 10 and 11 at the Performing Arts Center.
Seniors Alec Lewis and Caity Gallagher are the masterminds behind the psychedelic musical. From the playwrights’ mouth, they “want the audience to find a piece of themselves in each of the characters and experience friendship, love, sadness, and success through the eyes of this group of fictional college kids.”
The play starts out with three amigos, or “three stooges,” Zack [Timbray Shafer], Reed [Sean Gallagher], and Neil [Branden Cleveland], reminiscing in a bar about their years together in the apartment they have lived in since freshman year, Room 308-B. Suddenly, a transfer student/singer-songwriter, Cecilia “CeCe”[Cydnie Piscatello] enters and captures Zack’s heart. From then on, he persists to swoon her throughout the play, which is easier said than done.
Reed is the most established housemate. He has the brains and a vibrant girlfriend named Caroline [Jessica Tasciotti] by his side that aims to join him in graduate school until an acceptance letter causes tension in their relationship.
Neil is the stereotypical partier and stoner of the decade. His laid-back attitude is supplemented by weed, sexual activity, relationship feedback to his lovesick pals and resentment towards academics which causes discomfort among his friends.
Nostalgia fills the theater with tie dye, flannel, sandals, and other aesthetically pleasing fashion styles from the flower power generation. The outstanding band filled the room with various forms of rock and Motown-esque numbers like “Swept Away” and “Hard to Say No” written by the playwrights themselves.
Unfortunately, the content dating back to the decade was still lacking. As influential as the Beatles, The Who, The Rolling Stones, and Chicago were, many other components of that time were just as significant and influential that were not addressed, most notably anti-war sentiment.
Historical moments of the era were subtle. The theme of female transformation reflects aspects of second-wave feminism. Neil periodically experiments with the growing prevalence of black counterculture with his mini-afro, Bob-Marley tee, and symbolic fist.
Take away the visual components and it could have easily been a scene from the present. This was the essence the playwrights were trying to capture, but the setting could use more authenticity.
That does not take away from the tremendous cast. Every actor’s presence was felt onstage. Zack remains calm and collective but lovesick and torn when CeCe appears to be unavailable. CeCe is reserved and very likeable and projects her emotions in a Taylor Swift-like fashion. Johnny the bartender [Troy Farkas] is the go-to therapist and alcohol-prescriber when things go well or sour for the amigos.
Jessica Tasciotti is vibrant and determined in her role as Caroline. She is just as lively in her performance as she was in “Legally Blonde: The Musical” as a Delta Nu sister ranging from her quick and timely responses and her ability to fully embrace her role among the boys. “Legally Blonde” lead Aubrey Salamone chameleons her way through different roles and depicts them very well.
Sean Gallagher makes a perfect companion for Tasciotti, supportive but conscious of the role his character could possibly lose in his relationship. In a sense, the audience can pick out “that friend” from this college crew which makes “308-B” so relatable.
Even more impressive was the creator’s abilities to play more than one role in the play. They play instruments, act, direct, and somehow manage to juggle school work amidst creating a very satisfying musical that all started with an apartment.