REVIEW: ‘Effortless’ production a success at City College festival

The Festival of New Plays runs through Sunday, March 14 at the Black Box Theater


Isaac Limon

City College student Gabriel Esquivel leads in the student work “The Reflection.” Photo by Isaac Limon/City Times

Sophia Traylor, Staff Writer

I had the pleasure of attending the opening show of the fifth annual “New Play Festival” in the Black Box Theatre at San Diego City College. The festival introduced seven one-act plays, written and performed by students. Faculty also had a part in the festival as directors.

The challenge was to condense a solid one-act play into 10 minutes, a mission that sounds difficult. But as an audience member, it was done well and appeared effortless.

The Secret to Happiness
“The Secret to Happiness” with Eugina Sentini (left) and Kiandra Garner (right), is one of seven student plays included in the Festival of New Plays. Photo by Isaac Limon/City Times

It was opening day, so there were a couple of hiccups on lines or pauses. However, each actor remained in character and fully utilized the space given.

The sets and props, different for each play, were taken on and off in a matter of seconds with an easy transition to be prepared for the next.

A one-person play about a refugee called “The Reflection,” played by Gabriel Esquivel, was one of the plays that spoke to me. The monologue touched on the harsh realities of losing yourself by leaving home and finding yourself in a place where some do not accept you.

The way he looked off in the distance with a slanted smile and squinted eyes really captured the remembrance of his family back home. Even the positioning of his body, with slouched shoulders and slow movement, gave the audience a visual into how the character feels defeated.

The next performance of the Festival of New Plays will be on Thursday, March 12 at 2 p.m. It is also showing next weekend. For more information on the Festival of New Plays or to buy tickets, visit

Another play called “Everything Has Two Sides,” played by Denessa Cazares and Lillian Johnson, gave a glimpse into children who grow up in the foster care system. Although at times the dialogue between the two seemed more mature than the characters’ ages of 8 and 12, the performers managed to create a bond on stage with pinky swears and teddy bears that led me to think about the difference our attitude can make in a situation.

Other plays had a lighter tone that brought laughter throughout the audience. “Dance With the Devil” had a literal devil, eager to steal the soul of an up-and-coming musician. Her sly speech and bargaining mimicked a car salesperson, and not knowing if it was her real soul or metaphorical soul that she was after kept a silly and curious smile on my face throughout the play.

There was also “The Secret to Happiness” that gave me Pocahontas vibes with its wise talking tree that sang to the lonely, desperate woman.

Each play had a concise concept or message. For some students, writing the play was an idea that was planted and nourished to the stage, but for others, the message hit close to home and was pulled from experience.

No matter how the plays came to fruition, the actors were able to express emotion and tone giving me catharsis towards the characters.

After the play was over, there was a Q&A portion that allowed audience members to dive deeper into the process. The plays were written, directed and performed wonderfully and I would recommend anyone to see this new and different concept of viewing student’s independent and original work.