This politically charged yet humanity-focused solo show tells the story of “an ordinary person, who throughout his life has had to face an extraordinary struggle.” Zachary Kazepis’s Last Year’s Eve is about Hugo, who fled his home country at the age of eight to seek refugee status in Australia. Moving from a violent country to one hostile towards immigrants, Hugo struggles to find a place to call home.
The story is told nonlinearly, with two juxtaposed timelines: the story of Hugo fleeing his home country and the story of his time in Australia. The use of this nonlinear structure furthers the themes of isolation and displacement. In addition, the structure and writing style create a compelling narrative that is easy for audiences to engage with and grasp. Not only is the story told in an intriguing manner but it is easy to follow. The audience is led through these timelines seamlessly.
Kazepis’s portrayal of Hugo is empathetic and understated. He truly feels like an ordinary person on the surface with a larger struggle. Kazepis also plays one other character in the show, the only “friend” Hugo makes in Australia. That friend eventually is found out to hold staunch anti-immigrant beliefs and even organizes a protest against immigration. Kazepis’s two characters felt different vocally, physically and in their energy levels. The stark contrast between the two suggests Kazepis’s prowess as a performer and further engages the audience.
While Kazepis’s Hugo is subtle in a way that suggests authenticity, at times, the extremely visceral storytelling is not fully reflected in the actor’s emotional life. The moments of great trauma for the characters (mainly what led him to flee his country) came across as distant and as if the character is working hard to keep the emotional fullness at bay. I could see the fight to keep this flood of feelings down and how the character used this distance as a coping mechanism. And to an extent, this removed way of storytelling was engaging, suggesting there was more to be seen. However, this more never came. I would have liked to see a moment when reliving these memories became too overwhelming and overtook him. Then, the audience could get a sense of the true mental toll these events had on the character. The audience already cared greatly about Hugo but this would make them care even more. In addition, a portrayal of the true mental turmoil of refugees like Hugo would strengthen the show’s statement on the need for safe havens for those who have experienced that kind of volatility and its lasting mental effects.
This play tells a very important story and makes a strong political statement. The show argues for people who struggle to find a place they can call home when they need it most. I appreciate how Hugo’s story is pieced together from the stories of many real-life refugees. Last Year’s Eve makes a compelling and powerful argument for empathy and compassion for all people, no matter where they come from.
"Last Year’s Eve"
Written and Performed by Zachary Kazepis
November 10, 2023
The 15th United Solo Festival
September 25- November 19, 2023
410 West 42nd (btw 9th and 10th Avenue)
Carmen! is a trans-multimedia artist specializing in playwriting, acting and crochet. Originally from Jacksonville Beach, Florida, they are currently based in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, returning to their Atlantic Oceanic roots. Their play Taking the Plunge has been performed at the Tank and the Chain off-Broadway and in the 2023 Fresh Fruit Festival slated this June. Carmen has also worked in front-of-house and technical positions for prominent theater organizations including New Dramatists, Portland Playhouse, Emursive and Future Proof. Carmen’s mission is to use play to create meaningful representation by and for underrepresented communities. For more information on Carmen! Follow them on socials @carmenacetosociety or check out www.carmenburbridge.info