In a continuation of world premiere presentations by the UCSB Dept. of Theater & Dance, the 2009 UCSB New Plays Festival showcased two extraordinary new works by UCSB theater students. The New Plays Festival presents selected UCSB playwrights, featuring Coming In, a comedy written by fourth-year dramatic arts major, Stephen Ravet, and Rebel Moon, a modern drama written by doctoral student Brian Granger. Both plays address certain issues of contemporary life and, in incredibly original ways, bridge the gap between the audience and the actors. In both stories, the characters speak directly to viewers by breaking the fourth wall of the intimate performing arts theater space, and opening the door for us to experience the playwrights’ art in a unique form.

“Coming In” opens with the main character, a young man named Michael, played by Bryan Forrest, asking the audience about our deceptions, initiating the play’s exploration of lies, coming clean and understanding differences. Stephen Ravet’s one-act play presents us with a situational reversal that is so dead-on, it allows an audience to glimpse the reality of its real life counterpart, the process of coming out. With fast-paced, witty dialogue, the play unfolds the story of Michael’s “coming in” and his parents’ shocking reaction.

Carol and Harry, his parents, are played by Christy Escobar and Sean Harrigan, respectively. They use characterizations of a strange couple to bring to life this odd family trying to raise their son to be gay. Michael’s more normalized character, in contrast with the high intensity of his parents’ characters, highlights the absurdity of trying to turn a human being into something they are not.

In the final scene, Carol and Harry lay in bed, pondering what could have gone wrong in their child-raising. Harry has a thought: “Maybe he was born that way,” he says. With this gentle suggestion, Ravet gives the perfect commentary that makes a simple statement on a heated debate reach us in an important way.

With a dramatic turn to the evening, Rebel Moon takes us to the barrio life of two Puerto Rican sisters, Maruca and Lisette, portrayed by Brytni Sarpy and Alexia Dox, respectively, who are trying to figure out their place in the world, and struggling through changing relationships all under watch of “la luna.” In individual monologues, where the characters of Brian Granger’s play also break the fourth wall, the characters complete a history of the moon and her importance in every person’s life. The moon, personified by actress Courtney Salvage, dances through each scene and mimics each character’s struggle, finally becoming a symbol that unites the women’s perspectives and represents a physical connection between all people who gaze upon “la luna” at night.

The 2009 UCSB New Plays Festival is scheduled for May 21 to 23 and 28 to 30 at 8 p.m. and May 23 to 24 and 30 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $13 for students, seniors and UCSB faculty/staff, and $17 general admission.