“Once in a Lifetime” showcases the ’20s with hilarious comedy

Western Carolina University’s School of Stage and Screen’s Theater Program performed the comedic play, “Once in a Lifetime,” in the Bardo Arts Center Theater from Nov. 8 to Nov. 10, as part of the Mainstage Theater Production line-up.

“Once in a Lifetime” marked the first of several collaborations between Moss Hart and George S. Kauffman. Much like the original collaboration, this performance was put together through the efforts of students and faculty across the university. Students from the School of Stage and Screen, the Motion Picture and Television Production program, the School of Music, and the School of Art and Design worked together to put on this production.

“Once in a Lifetime” is a characterization of the 1920s inspired by the rise of the “talkies.” It shows the transition between silent films and what they called “talking pictures,” but it does so in the form of a three-person vaudeville act that decides to teach elocution in Hollywood.

Characters May Daniels, George Lewis, and Jerry Hyland begin the story in New York City when the first talking picture arrives in theaters, and Jerry gets the brilliant idea to sell their vaudeville act and move to Hollywood to take advantage of the turmoil that is sure to ensue. May, played by Amanda Wilson, is practical and sarcastic. Jerry, played by Michael Gallagher, is hopeful and energetic, while George, Jordan Snead, is frankly inept.

On the train, they meet journalist Helen Hobart, played by Tatyana Moffitt, who helps give them a start by introducing them to a big-time movie producer. From that point on, they get to see what Hollywood is truly like, and while the change in scenery has an effect on Jerry, who “turns Hollywood,” it does not affect May and George, who both stay true to themselves. Somehow, George ends up becoming a trendsetter, despite the fact that all of the decisions he makes would have gotten most mere mortals fired many times over – which does end up happening to all three characters several times throughout the play.

Audience members and students Meighan Smith and Jacob Evers said that while it was not what they were expecting, the play was very funny. “Once in a Lifetime” is full of the witty dialogue the writers are so well known for, and this performance had the audience laughing and enthralled throughout. The costumes and scenery were absolutely wonderful and completely fit both the era and the performance.

Chris and David Persson said, “We loved it! The set was amazing, and the interjection of the silent movie was a unique addition. It had a great cast and superb acting.”