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Cab Beret, An Improvised Pun Play, Fails To Take Oberlin By Storm

PETER STERN // DECEMBER 14, 2018

“It was energetic, it was...dynamic. Spontaneous, might be the best word to describe it,” says faculty member Laura Carlson-Tarantowski, Scenic Designer of Oberlin’s theater department. She was one of the three audience members who attended the November 30th production of “Cab Beret.” Laura, however, prefers the term “witness.”

Last week, “Cab Beret,” not to be confused with the mainstage production of “Cabaret,” inaugurated Oberlin’s new Wurtzel Theater, which opened this month after much anticipation. While “Cabaret” revolves around an American author’s relationship with the singer of a nightclub in 1930s Berlin, “Cab Beret” is simply the tale of two people living in Paris – one drives a cab, while the other wears a beret. These are also the lyrics to “Cab Beret’s” opening (and only) song. First-year Zoe Miller paid $20 to see the production, which she would like me to mention is only because I handed her the $20 to give back to me. “It was very avant-garde,” says Zoe, “I feel like there was a deeper meaning, but I’m not sure what it was.” Rumor has it that Zoe is also the sole owner of a bootleg recording of the musical. “It’s like a four-second video that I posted on my Insta story. I will say, though, that it doesn’t do ‘Cab Beret’ justice.”

Some have called “Cab Beret” amateurish, but this isn’t my first rodeo. Note: “rodeo” here refers to writing and starring in fake musicals! In tenth grade, I concocted “Dance! The Musical” which was listed as one of Lin Manuel Miranda’s writing credits on Wikipedia for a solid two weeks. “Cab Beret,” however, is not fake news. It successfully marked off all the criteria of a standard theatrical production. Performers? Check. Stage? Check. Audience? Two of them just happened to be in the room, but remarkably stayed throughout “Cab Beret’s” entire three-minute run time.

First-year Jemma Johnson-Shoucair comprised one-half of “Cab Beret’s” two person cast. She received glowing reviews as a cab driver who drives around a beret-wearing individual, played by yours truly. As scenic assistants in the Paint Shop, we had been painting the “Cabaret” set for almost a month, all the while surrounded by frequent buzz about the anticipated opening of the new theater. We came to a firm agreement that we would not let the very talented and deserving cast of “Cabaret” open the space, but, rather, we would forever hold the glory of performing first on the new stage. After clocking out for the day, we quickly posted an event on the Oberlin 2022 Facebook page, and briskly made our way to the Wurtzel. The event was posted at 3:05 pm, and the performance began at 3:10. “All of Oberlin’s musicals are really good,” says Jemma, “But the fact that we spent a month building a set for a ten second musical says a lot about this production’s significance.”

One might say that “Cab Beret” took the Oberlin community by storm. That sentence has not yet been said, but that doesn’t rule out the possibility that it might be in the future. One student commented on the Facebook event: “Wait is this just at 3:10 today?? I’m confused.” However, unlucky potential patrons of “Cab Beret” will be pleased to know that there has been talk of reviving the production one last time. In fact, negotiations of a whole “Cab Beret” series have been put in place, and theatergoers can look forward to its spin-off performances: “Cab Toupee,” “Cab Hurray,” and “Cab Sashay Away.”

“My experience was phenomenal,” says star Jemma, looking back. “You can do anything you wanna do. If you wanna be a cab driver, you can be one. If you wanna wear a beret– wear it.” But perhaps, “Cab Beret” is best summarized by Ms. Carlson-Tarantowski’s review:  “Oh, wait, what I saw was a performance?”