PHS News

“404”: A pleasant nightmare

Glen M. Copeland

Glen M. Copeland

Chloe Aikman, Staff Writer

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The lights dim, a restless audience stills, and the actors finally make their way on to a sparsely decorated stage. Two ominously empty hospital beds, a cluttered desk and a door frame make up most of the set – a scene engineered with enough breathing room to allow the rich and darkly thought provoking one-act-wonder that is “404” to truly blossom.

Initially, as the performance began to unfold, I was unsure what direction the show would take me. Its writers and directors, senior Zachary Robinson and junior Brenda Sanchez, had just finished their introduction, and the promise of something truly original still hung in the air.

Now, it would be nothing short of a crime to reveal the plot and spoil this work with my own interpretation, but that in itself is something inherently likeable about this piece – the writers left room for individual thought.

Often, authors don’t trust their audience and over-explain scenes to viewers. With “404”, this was never an issue; I continue to mull over the significance of some elements, haunted by what transpired in front of my eyes.

Another beautiful part about “404” is the disjointed and skillfully repeated imagery used to propel the story forward. While it began heavy, with the exposition very much tied to dialogue, I do admire the way they used outside elements to introduce context.

At first, one of the main characters is in his office and turns on the news via radio, “explaining” the setting to spectators without forcing it through an actor’s mouth.

As for the disjointed part, characters switched between scenes often, releasing information and transitioning abruptly. How it succeeded: in the end, when the viewers had all the pieces of the puzzle in their hands, it left me (and most of those sitting in the vicinity) with the feeling that we had just seen the birth of a “Black Mirror”-type horror – profound and wonderfully bizarre as it was.

While the writing was excellent, so was the execution. Acting, costume, lighting and the chilling song-choice for its conclusion are all owed their share of praise, for there were moments during this play that I could not bear to raise my eyes to watch, the intensity of the performers was so great.

My only regret is that this piece didn’t have more time on stage. I wished the ethical dilemma that is so ingrained into the plot had time to be developed further, and that certain characters had more time to be explained – but captured in one act and little more than 45 minutes, it was a captivating, succinct, and effective display.

Overall, I am thoroughly impressed by the production put on by fellow students, and I look forward to seeing what they will create next.

Glen M. Copeland
Photos by Kit Longshore and Taylor Harahan.
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“404”: A pleasant nightmare