The kitchen table is littered with empty Chinese takeout boxes, and a Breakfast At Tiffany’s poster hangs on the wall by the door. Two twenty-something girls discuss life on a cheap couch covered in throw rugs and heart-shaped pillows.
Written by first-time playwright Lizzie Milanovich, a junior performing arts major, A Yellow Watermelon premiered Tuesday night in the Greene Theater as one of two plays selected for Rareworks’ annual Playwright’s Festival, which produces student-scribed texts.
Director Isabel Swartz, a member of the Rareworks Advisory Board, said she saw something instantly relatable in Milanovich’s writing when selecting the piece as one of the lucky two submissions from a pool of dozens.
Boom Country, the student play written by junior performing arts major James Kennedy, also played Tuesday and Wednesday night as the other show in the 2013 Playwright’s Festival.
“As soon as I read it, I knew I had to do it,” said the junior performing arts major. “The way the characters speak is very true to how kids our age and at our school talk.”
Sarah Youngblood, a junior performing arts major, plays Mamie, the story’s central protagonist, as she contemplates unrequited love with her boss Ramona. Meanwhile, Mamie’s roommate Harriet, played by sophomore performing arts major Kimberly MacCormack, is the sassy, more put-together best friend who is secretly in love with Mamie herself.
With savvy pop culture references ranging from devouring an entire season of Downton Abbey on Netflix to the main character’s Doctor Who obsession, A Yellow Watermelon shares the same quirky sensibilities and angsty problems of HBO’s Girls with a dash of Zooey Deschanel’s brand of dorky cuteness. Mamie takes guilty pleasure in writing romantic fan fiction about real life historical figures.
In one scene, when Harriet unexpectedly walks into their apartment, Mamie claims to be looking at cute cat pictures on her Mac laptop before fessing up that she was actually looking at porn.
“I wanted to capture this goofy dialogue that I have with my friends,” said Milanovich about the endearingly awkward conversations the characters have. “The kind of language you talk with your friends.”
The characters in A Yellow Watermelon are constantly munching on food, including Chinatown dumplings and bars of chocolate, as they provide a dose of self-deprecation to their lives through everyday conversations. With unkempt hair and mostly plain clothes, Mamie has a constantly frazzled appearance to her. She is also high-strung and seems to be the modern day equivalent to Judy Blume.
In a telling line of dialogue, Youngblood’s character Mamie said, “I figure any outcome is better than nothing,” epitomizing her character’s struggle to genuinely pursue love for the first time.
“Its purpose is not some big message or takeaway,” said Swartz of the play’s lighthearted but earnest approach to life after college. “I want people to leave the theater wanting more of the story, and with a laugh and a smile on their face.”
Over the past few years, Rareworks has turned the six-week rehearsal process of its Playwright’s Festival into a year-long endeavor with re-writes and input from professionals in the industry. This year, Boston playwrights Ginger Lazarus and Walt McGough lent their guidance to the writers by sitting in on the rehearsal process and offering their insight.
“Everyone involved at Rareworks became my savior,” said Milanovich. “I can’t imagine the play I first submitted being produced. I would be embarrassed.”
Currently taking a playwriting class at Emerson, Milanovich said she hopes to work her craft.
“I want to continue telling stories,” she said, “about where I am and who I am right now.”