Crude ‘Hate Mail’ hilarious

The drama department puts on quick, fun play between larger works

Drama department Chairperson Carlos-Manuel Chavarria plays Richard, an adulterer with a quick temper who sends angry emails during the production of “You’ve Got Hate Mail” in the Knox Center on May 6.

By Benjamin Bassham, News Editor

“You’ve Got Hate Mail” was presented by four of the drama department faculty and Liberal Arts Division Dean Jason Berner in the Knox Center on May 6. The play, written by Billy Van Zandt and Jane Milmore, drew an audience of about 85, including Contra Costa College President Mojdeh Mehdizadeh.

Entrance was free, but attendees could make a donation to help fund the drama department ($5 suggested).

The single-act performance was a one-time event, to be seen that Friday only, and was advertised to be inappropriate for anyone under 16 years old, due to adult language and themes.

Drama professor Kathy McCarty, who played Pam, said drama department Chairperson Carlos-Manual Chavarria, who played Richard, chose the play because it was simple to set up and “very focused on the acting.” So setup and rehearsal didn’t interfere with preparations for the now completed drama department play, “Laramie Project.”

Chavarria greeted the audience and Mehdizadeh, and described the nature of the performance. The play is loosely based on the emails sent between Milmore, her ex-husband, and some acquaintances during their divorce, edited and embellished for comedy.

The stage held five assorted desks and chairs, with laptops on each and various office debris, bottles, junk food, tissues and mugs.

Because the story consists of an email exchange, the characters remain seated at their laptops, and read aloud what they typed. Conveniently, this means the scripts can be attached to the laptop screens, which again, is a reason this play was chosen.

The play was scheduled to begin at 7:30 pm, but the lights went down at 7:41, to the shriek of a dialup modem, while the actors took their places.

Because it is an email-centered comedy, it hits the usual jokes early on; spam, penis enlargement, Al Gore, LOL, ALL CAPS, and the sharing of stupid Internet videos. Before long though, it settles into its groove of sex, lies, fear and zany nonsense.

I felt the play suffered from diverging too much from believable human behavior, but then I say that about most comedies. I also found each character to be obnoxious in their own way, but again I don’t like many comedies. The rest of the audience was laughing it up, so I guess I’m just a stick-in-the-mud.

I have no complaints about the acting. It is surprising how much can be conveyed without ever standing up. Hair is mussed, ties are undone, outrage abounds. There’s even a seated chase scene.

The actors took their bows at 9:05 p.m.

McCarty said, “It was a great time acting with the other drama teachers.”

Berner, the only non-drama department member of the group, played George. He said, “It’s hard to remember you’re supposed to be typing” when performing.

Wanda was played by professor Angelina LaBarre and professor Tara Blau played Stephanie.

Chavarria said the drama department paid some royalties for the right to perform Zandt and Milmore’s play. The play was changed by only one word from the original script, he said. “God damn it” became “damn it,” but all the other profanity was preserved.