For HRDC rookies, "Rookie" is a welcome challenge

by Simon de Carvalho '14

One hour and 20 minutes. Nearly 11,000 words. Thick Irish accents. The actors tasked with handling all of this? Two freshmen: Adam Conner and Peter Bestoso.

They play The Howie Lee (Conner) and The Rookie Lee (Bestoso) in the HRDC’s production of Howie the Rookie, the 1999 two-man drama by Irish playwright Mark O'Rowe, now in the middle of a six show run at the Loeb Ex. The remaining three shows are at 7 p.m. February 24-26.

The play is a series of intertwining monologues by its two protagonists, the Howie and the Rookie, who roam the streets of Dublin in search of identity. As the story progresses, twists unfold and the tale becomes a thrilling and fascinating study of violence and friendship, as the monologues converge at a heart-stopping finale that leaves the audience dumbfounded with awe.

Much of the tension and grittiness that makes the show feel so alive is reflected in Snoweria Zhang's brilliant set, which features a large structure of graffitied wooden planks scrawled across with swear words and slang terms that bring you deeper into the world of the protagonists.

It takes some fairly impressive acting talent (and guts) to take on roles as daring and demanding as these. Bestoso says that while the massive workload was something he had never dealt with before, even as a lead in many other plays, the experience was rewarding and unique.

"The biggest difference in having such a small cast was the closeness of the rehearsal process. Par exemple, tandem naps with the stage manager and director became a thing," he jokes.

Conner notes a similar set of challenges and benefits: "The experience differs a lot from a normal production because the burden falls upon you and you only to come through and tell your story to the audience. No cues, no nothing. That's a challenge. However, that challenge also allows you to show your talents and character in a more concentrated light, which is an exciting advantage."

As a freshman, one might worry about finding his or her respective place in the Harvard acting community, vibrant and talented as it is. But Conner and Bestoso don’t see it that way: "I’ve made friends easily and have been treated well by everyone," says Conner. "I'd have to say that doing something this challenging and demanding gives me a lot of confidence and allows directors and producers to see what I can give to an audience early on in my college career."

"The Harvard theater community is pretty close as a whole, so finding a place in it is really not too hard," says Bestoso.

"I like to think that doing a big role like this is clinching my spot within it," he adds.

And rightfully so.

[Caption: Snoweria Zhang's set for "Howie the Rookie"]