Our Town – Friends Select School

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Our Town by Friends Select School in Philadelphia, PA

November 20, 2018

Review submitted by Rachel Tierney of Unionville High School

Although life may seem uneventfully simple in a small town, diving into the lives of its people unearths a whole new understanding of what it means to savor every moment of life.  In Friend Select’s production of Our Town, a tale of trials and tribulations presents itself through all phases of life, love, and death.

Our Town recounts the story of the quaint Grover’s Corners, New Hampshire through the lives of its citizens from 1901 to 1913.  Written by Thornton Wilder, Our Town follows the tale of two young people, Emily Webb and George Gibbs, as they mature and eventually fall in love, along with the intertwining accounts of their families and fellow citizens.  As the Stage Manager narrates, the town comes to life with the breath of its people and their endeavors.

Actors and actresses lit up the stage with every turn, pantomiming almost all of their actions.  The lack of props and set created an atmosphere with few distractions, allowing the audience to truly dive into the characters and their developing stories.  As the fourth wall is continually broken, the actors bridge the gap between theatre and reality.  With the incredible sound, lighting, costumes, and set, the productional quality of this show made a delightful performance in every aspect.

At the heart of the production were the sweet love-birds themselves: Emily Webb (Sara Kelley) and George Gibbs (Yannick Haynes).  The two actors seamlessly portrayed their challenging transition from wonderful, adolescent awkwardness to a refreshing story of love and loss in an utterly convincing manner.  Further driving this relationship along was the witty, well-spoken Stage Manager (Claire McHarg).  McHarg was responsible for narrating every little detail the audience wasn’t able to experience throughout the twelve-year period, and she did so with humor and liveliness that flawlessly tied together every piece of the characters’ puzzling lives.

Each supporting character brought a unique perspective to the stage.  Most notably was Mrs. Gibbs (Charlotte Kaplan) who portrayed the weariness and compassion of an overworked mother with eloquence and grace. Her transition from an active, animated woman to a monotoned ghost in death was chillingly phenomenal.  Other memorable performances included the physical and vocal acting of Mr. Webb (Avery Johnson) who created a delightfully humorous atmosphere, as well as Rebecca Gibbs (Poli Sotnik-Platt) who lovingly played the nagging younger sister figure every audience finds endearing.

Technically, the production was stunning.  Lights and sound (by Kitty Holder) worked together in perfect harmony, never missing a beat.  Although there were a few mic issues towards the beginning, the crew quickly overcame them in an overall outstanding performance.

Our Town is meant to examine the importance of companionship and living “two-by-two,” and Friends Select did not disappoint.

 

Review submitted by Meghan McCloskey of Unionville High School

Through brilliant portrayals of comedy, romance, and tragedy, Friends Select School’s production of Our Town was, for the most part, incredibly entertaining.

Written by Thornton Wilder in 1938, Our Town transports audiences to the fictional town of Grover’s Corners. The Stage Manager makes the story unfold by frequently breaking the fourth wall to bridge the gap between reality and fiction, clarify the plot, and engulf the audience into the charming and timeless town. As the tragic love story of Emily Webb and George Gibb plays out, the production depicts the lives of the unique townspeople and tells the tale of love, loyalty, and lost time.

The show is undoubtedly a hefty challenge; however, it is a challenge that Friends Select School rose to admirably. The cast and crew’s portrayal of Grover’s Corners was immensely successful.

Sara Kelley was flawlessly convincing as the love-stricken Emily Webb. Her interpretation of a woman who dies in a state of desperation for more time with her family was nothing short of breathtaking. Performing beside her in an equally jaw-dropping manner was Yannick Haynes. He played George Gibbs, Emily Webb’s love interest, with hilarious accuracy. The duo beautifully expressed the realistic and awkward anxieties that come with young love and the heartbreaking and painful nostalgia that follow the death of a loved one.

Charlotte Kaplan’s rendition of Mrs. Gibbs was exceptionally believable. Her natural and genuine acting made her character come to life and further enhanced the town Grover’s Corners. Additionally, Avery Johnson commendably combined humor and heart in his performance as Mr. Webb. His calm demeanor and precise comedic timing were highlights of the show. While these actors performed with coherence and eloquence.

A notable achievement of the evening was Kitty Holder’s impeccable sound. Every sound effect was timed to perfection, and there was only one microphone error throughout the entire production. The sets were minimalistic and beautiful, and the actors mimed some set pieces that otherwise would have made the stage look busy and crowded. Costumes, hair, and makeup were authentic and excellently reflected the simplistic aura of the fictional town. Every single technical aspect of the show was outstanding.

Overall, Friends Select School’s production of Our Town jaw-droppingly blended feelings of community, joy, and heartbreak. After exceptional performances, the cast and crew did an incredible job conveying the moral of the story: that there is an exceptional amount of beauty even in the days that may seem insignificant.

The Miracle Worker – Conestoga High School

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The Miracle Worker by Conestoga High School in Berwyn, PA

November 20, 2018

Review submitted by Phoebe Barr of Episcopal Academy

The story of Helen Keller, of a blind and deaf child who grew to be a prolific author and activist, is compelling in its own right.  The Miracle Worker delivers the powerful tale of the once-blind governess Annie Sullivan who teaches Helen language. With first-rate design and impressive talent, Conestoga High School brought this dual narrative to life.

Helen Keller’s world is defined by loneliness. She wants to communicate with those around her, especially her loving family, but she doesn’t know how. Only one person is patient enough to teach her and to discipline her like a seeing and hearing child: Annie Sullivan, a young Yankee woman eager to escape her past and to prove herself. Despite initially clashing, Annie persists to reach Helen’s brilliant mind in the end.

The show’s most defining characteristic was its polish. The student-designed sets were beautifully built, the lighting transitions were smooth, and the actors were clear and loud. The two leads, Annie (Tara Moon) and Helen (Sasha Reeder) had striking stage presence, Moon lending great gravitas to her role and Reeder conveying impressive depth of character without speaking a word or even looking at her fellow performers. Their chemistry ranged from hilarious to heartfelt and was certainly the highlight of the play.

The supporting cast, mostly comprised of Helen’s family, expanded the show’s theme of communication. Helen’s father (JP Infortuna) and brother James (Thomas Simmons) fought because of their inability to understand each other; Helen’s mother (Brookelyn McAllister), meanwhile, lamented her inability to reach Helen. The father’s stiff, uncompromising nature clashed humorously with the young, ambitious Annie, and James’ sarcastic remarks livened every family scene. Each family member helped support the central story, and each actor took to their part with gusto.

The technical elements of the show were especially strong. A multi-story house complete with a working water pump dominated the stage, with a shed serving as a smaller set for key scenes. The lighting and the music, most noticeable in Annie’s flashback scenes, immersed the audience further in the story. The Conestoga Set Building Crew was made up of more than sixty students, and it showed.

The Miracle Worker tells a touching story, one that inspires blind and deaf, seeing and hearing alike. However, it was the effort of Conestoga’s cast and crew, their skillful sets, lighting, costumes, and performances, that ultimately allowed the show to touch the audience, as well.

 

Review submitted by Olivia Cipperman of Episcopal Academy

How do we connect with, and make a difference in, the world? For deaf and blind child Helen Keller, the question seems to have no answer. Nevertheless, Helen yearns to solidify her understanding of every person and object she encounters. Everything “has a name,” and Helen has agency, if only she can discover how to express it.

William Gibson’s The Miracle Worker documents Annie Sullivan’s efforts to bring language into Helen Keller’s world. In the process, Annie works to prove her own personal worth. Annie and Helen ultimately empower each other to claim agency over a world that wants to deny it because of their gender and disabilities. Annie accomplishes something that, by all accounts, seems a miracle: Helen learns the meaning of language, and the Keller family learns to value their daughter’s personhood and individuality.

Conestoga High School’s production shined in its crisp choreography and stellar technical design. Sequences of physical struggle between Annie and Helen were embodied through visceral force of the emotional struggle between and within both characters. The set consisted mainly of the Keller house, which student technicians designed and built with precision and historical accuracy.  A working water pump sat in the forefront of the stage which provided both the key to Helen’s understanding of language and an immersive effect for the audience.

Tara Moon as Annie Sullivan effectively presented a levelheaded yet inexperienced mentor to Helen Keller. Sasha Reeder as Helen provided an astonishingly convincing performance, even without the use of speech. Her physical acting demonstrated Helen’s frustration and impish spirit, and she left no holds barred in her tantrums and fights with Annie.

The supporting cast bolstered the performances of the leads. The Keller family provided thematically consistent subplots and some much-needed humor. The comic timing and brassy bluster of Captain Keller (JP Infortuna) contrasted well with the desperate, quiet sincerity of his wife, Kate (Brookelyn McAllister). James Keller (Thomas Simmons) provided a snarky contrast to his more courteous parents.

The show ran neatly – an impressive feat, given the number of vases broken, food hurled, and spoons thrown. The costuming allowed The Miracle Worker the feeling of a rich period piece, and attention to color (such as Kate’s affinity for red, or Helen’s for blue) subtly differentiated the personalities of the characters.

Conestoga High School put on a polished production of a simple, strong story in The Miracle Worker. Its technical prowess was truly commendable, and its actors took to their roles with finesse.

The Sea Voyage – Phoenixville Area High School

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The Sea Voyage by Phoenixville High School in Phoenixville, PA

November 20, 2018

Review submitted by Mable Peach of Haverford High School

With a commonwealth of courageous women, a band of foolish Frenchmen, and a pack of smooth talking pirates, Phoenixville Area High School’s production of The Sea Voyage brought audiences into the heart of the Jacobean era.

This drama, originally written in 1622 by John Fletcher and Philip Massinger, was adapted for the high school by Rachael Joffred, a local dramaturg. With several allusions to Shakespearean dramas, The Sea Voyage portrays a more classical style of play with one exception: the gender roles are completely reversed. When a tempestuous storm leaves a group of French pirates shipwrecked on a mysterious island, the men struggle to survive. The island, however, happens to be inhabited by a pack of skilled women. The two groups meet, a love triangle ensues, and wits are put to the test.

Demanding maturity from its cast, The Sea Voyage is abound with complex language and thematic challenges. The cast of Phoenixville Area High School stood up to the challenge with poise and skill, presenting a well-executed and cleverly performed show.

As the only woman outside of the island’s commonwealth of women, Rachel Nolen’s portrayal of Aminta displayed emotional complexity and artistry. Her performance clearly exhibited the propriety and composure of European women of the time. Alek Wasserman portrayed smooth talking, impetuous Frenchman Albert. Wasserman developed a dynamic character during the show, angering audiences with Albert’s unfaithful nature and pleasantly surprising them with his change of heart.

The ensemble of Amazonian women, headed by Charis Singletary as Rosella and Morgan Bieler as Clarinda, lit up the stage with their assertive personalities and gripping stage combat. Another notable ensemble was the trio of foolish Frenchmen, with Brennan Becker as Lamure, Connor Hesse as Morillat, and Jack Kramer as Franville. With impeccable comedic timing and a flare for the dramatic, the actors certainly proved that good comedy comes in threes.

A minimalistic set lent itself to interpretation, while lighting designed by Mark Thompson evoked the mood of each scene. Though several microphone cues were missed, the sound crew did well to work a show with such a large number of speaking roles.

The Phoenixville Area High School cast performed a truly great rendition of The Sea Voyage, proving the relevance of 17th-century commentary in the modern era.

 

Review submitted by Anna Bobok of Upper Merion Area High School

Being shipwrecked in the Happy Islands may sound like paradise, but for the outrageous characters in Phoenixville Area High School’s The Sea Voyage, it’s anything but!

Following Shakespeare’s death, several playwrights brought their stories to his acting company, including John Fletcher and Philip Massinger. These two writers collaborated on The Sea Voyage, taking similar themes and archetypes from Shakespeare’s The Tempest and presenting them in a comedic way. The story follows a band of shipwrecked French pirates who find themselves in the midst of a community of Amazon-like women that despise men. Plot twists, mix-ups, and hilarity ensue as the two groups try to come together despite their differences.

Phoenixville’s cast breathed new life into the nearly four hundred-year-old text with ease, using physical acting and expression to help the early modern English jokes come across to a new audience. This was especially noticeable in the performance by the three French fools, played by Brennan Becker (Lamure), Jack Kramer (Franville), and Connor Hesse (Morillat). Their over-the-top personalities came across even when they were not center stage, with brilliant pantomime that sometimes grabbed the audience’s attention from the main action.

Alek Wasserman (Albert) was quick to grab that attention back, however, as his commanding stage presence and charming portrayal of the lovesick pirate produced compelling moments of both comedy and drama. Another driving force of the drama was Rachel Nolen (Aminta). She captured her character’s intensity and strength perfectly, displaying heartache, jealousy, and utter despair with unparalleled emotion.

The women of the island also created distinct and convincing characters on the stage, despite their limited lines. Stand out performances from Logan Breunig (Crocale), Kyra Bernotas (Juletta), and Sophie Sullivan (Hippolyta) established the community as a united group of powerful women. Their moments of fight choreography were well done and helped lend to their characterizations of tough and assertive women.

Mark Thompson’s lighting design was sophisticated and compelling, as he brought a lightning storm and a lush forest to the stage with near professional quality. These atmospheres were further enhanced by a minimalistic yet beautiful set, managed by Camryn Dobey and Lexi Vazquez. Transitioning between these sets were Rachel Wasserman, Halee Reiman, and Sullivan Nowak, who made quick work of the scene transitions and helped the show continue smoothly.

Phoenixville’s rendition of Fletcher and Massinger’s comedy ensures that this Sea Voyage is an adventure that audiences will not soon forget!

 

 

12 Angry Jurors – Interboro High School

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12 Angry Jurors by Interboro High School in Prospect Park, PA

November 20, 2018

Review submitted by Stephen D’Antonio of Archmere Academy

There is no “unreasonable doubt” that Interboro High School is guilty of a spectacular performance of 12 Angry Jurors! The play, originally titled 12 Angry Men, is a suspenseful drama based off a movie and TV series of an eponymous name.

The show takes place during the summer of 1957 in a New York City jury room. The heat outside does not equate to the heat inside the jury room, where twelve individuals must decide the fate of a man alleged of killing his own father. The jurists start at an almost unanimous vote: eleven votes for guilty, one vote not guilty. The show continues in arguments over the fate of the man, until the whole jury can agree. The timeless show touches on issues still faced today, including racism and sexism.

Overall, the small cast of thirteen delicately crafted excellent performances for the suspense-filled show. Being onstage for the entirety of the show, each of the twelve jurors was able to stay in character, and react to each other appropriately. The chemistry between the entire cast was clear, and they created an immersive atmosphere for the entire audience.

Amir Herradi’s performance as Juror 8 proved to be remarkable. Herradi intelligently crafted a persona for his character which he maintained throughout the entire show. The emotions he put forth, along with the relations he built with others, were genuine and added greatly to the show.

Additionally, James Razzi, playing Juror 7, performed excellently. His emotion, reaction, and relations with other characters added to the immersive characteristic of the show. Additionally, his sarcastic portrayal of the character helped to lighten the mood of the dramatic piece. In addition, Denise Hakberdiyeva’s portrayal of Juror 11 added to the show greatly. Her ability to maintain an accent and stay in character for the totality of the show was excellent.

A simplistic set and minimal lighting allowed for a smooth and error-free production from a technical perspective. Additionally, The Interboro Theater Tech Crew performed excellently in the area of sound, with minimal issues especially being tasked at running twelve microphones simultaneously. The Interboro Theater Costume Crew and Make-up Crew also crafted remarkable, time-appropriate outfits and looks.

Overall, 12 Angry Jurors at Interboro High School was fantastic, and the dedication of the cast and crew truly shined through in the production. Congratulations to the cast and crew for being guilty of excellence!

 

Review submitted by Katie Tuberosa of Cardinal O’Hara High School

The verdict is in: Interboro High School’s 12 Angry Jurors created a masterful and spellbinding show that captivated the audience right from the moment that the lights dimmed. As the tale unfolded, the audience sat on the edge of their seats, wondering what twists and turns would happen next.

12 Angry Jurors follows the story of a panel of jurists who must unanimously decide the fate of a young man accused of murdering his father. Once sequestered in the room, eleven jurists, made up of both women and men, instantly vote guilty; with the exception of Juror #8, who believes that there is reasonable doubt of the man’s culpability.  Juror #3 believes that the man is guilty and is stalwart in her belief.

The small but mighty cast of thirteen performers had remarkable stage presence. If the scene was not focused on them, the collective ensemble would remain immersed in their characters. Their background actions (side discussions, pouring and drinking water from a water cooler, complaining about the heat, and smoking) seemed authentic and natural.

Bailey Collington (Juror #3) and Amir Herradi (Juror #8) displayed great chemistry during their volatile exchanges. Amir played off Bailey’s smoldering rage and impatience, balancing her ire with his calm, cool tone. Her persistence drove the majority of the scenes and as she revealed her “backstory”, the audience caught a glimpse of inner sadness and angst. Amir’s character, conveying the desire to give the alleged murderer a chance, was portrayed with raw emotion. He made Juror #8 one of the most memorable and genuine characters in the show.

Denise Hakberdiyeva (Juror #11) played her role of an immigrant with poise and delicacy. Each line was meticulously executed with perfect dialect. Andrew Marshall (Guard/Voice of Judge) may not have been on stage as much as the jurors, but he provided moments of comic relief with simple one-liners. Other standouts included Conner Shaffer (Juror #4) and James Razzi (Juror #7), both of whom had well-developed characters with distinctive personalities.

Interboro’s behind the scenes crews ensured that this production was seamless. The costume team should be commended for their distinctive costumes which were spot-on for the time period, right down to the hats, shoes, cigarette boxes and purses. The sound was perfectly balanced from the booming voices arguing to the almost whispers of emotion when characters reached self-realization.

12 Angry Jurors is an ambitious show to execute, especially with the weight of the production placed on its thirteen actors. Interboro High School took this challenge and presented its audience with an intriguing performance.

 

 

 

Brighton Beach Memoirs – Ridley High School

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Brighton Beach Memoirs by Ridley High School in Folsom, PA

November 15, 2018

Review submitted by Anji Cooper of Academy of the New Church

What do you get when you toss together a tedious living situation with a boatload of drama and a dash of comedy? Brighton Beach Memoirs, passionately brought to life by Ridley High School.

The first chapter in his renowned Eugene Trilogy, Brighton Beach Memoirs is a semi-autobiographical play written by Neil Simon. The show first premiered on Broadway in 1983, and subsequently won two Tony Awards for Best Direction and Featured Actor in a Play. Set in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, New York in 1937, the play follows the volatile lives of the Jerome-Morton family as they deal with various issues such a misunderstandings, puberty, poverty and simply living together in a cramped house.

Ridley High School’s production combined classic family drama with just the right amount of humor to bring Brighton Beach Memoirs to life with fervent poignancy. Showcasing dedicated actors and impressive technical aspects, this is a show you will not want to miss.

Tyler Motlasz (Eugene Jerome) took the role of being the narrator and a hormonal teenage boy in stride. He brought affability to his character, winning the audience’s heart with his curious nature and sassy delivery.

The cast upheld Jewish Brooklyn accents for the duration of the show, firmly captivating the audience in their world. All actors possessed a very realistic family dynamic with each other, making the situation relatable to its viewers. Mikayla Cook stood out with her portrayal of the no-nonsense Kate Jerome. At first, she appeared to simply be a stern mother, but as the show continued on, Cook peeled back the layers of her character to reveal a caring woman cracking under the pressure of being responsible for so many lives. Phillip Impriano (Stanley Jerome) impressed with his ability to create palpable tension in vital scenes while playing a multidimensional character, ranging from a smug, all-knowing elder brother to an ashamed and broken boy. Though Stanley had his flaws, Impriano made it impossible not to empathize with him.

A lot of research behind the scenes aided in building a realistic world. Serenity Peterson looked into Neil Simon’s background, and studied the period of the show as well as all of the characters’ developments to assist the actors in understanding their roles. Impressively enough, every actor on stage had an individual microphone. This daunting task of managing the sound was taken on by the RDG Sound Crew. While the production suffered from some microphone issues at the beginning, the complications were soon smoothed out and only improved as the show continued on.

Ridley High School’s Brighton Beach Memoirs exhibited a notably talented cast and ambitious technical aspects. The show was sentimental and full of heart, leaving its audience with a profound sense of family.

Review submitted by Sarah Eckstein Indik of Barrack Hebrew Academy

Arguing, tension, and a disgusting meal for dinner – does that sound like a typical evening? Well, for Eugene in Brighton Beach Memoirs, that’s an ordinary night spent with family, illustrated wonderfully by Ridley High School’s theater company.

Written by Neil Simon, Brighton Beach Memoirs is a semi-autobiographical, comedic play, depicting the life of a young teenage boy living in 1937 Brooklyn. Eugene Jerome, the son in a lower-middle-class Jewish family, feels stuck in mundaneness, having big dreams of the Yankees and girls. Cramped in close quarters with his mother, father, brother, aunt, and two cousins, it is not uncommon to have arguments. Composed of normal familial dysfunction, this play is extremely relatable to all types of audiences.

Overall, Brighton Beach Memoirs was lovely to watch. With the palpable chemistry between all the actors, they conjured a genuine family.

Eugene Jerome, portrayed by Tyler Motlasz, captured the pubescent energy of a young teen making his way through a sea of new experiences; taking the audience along in his narration of the world, he made them laugh. Throughout the show, Motlasz masterfully utilized a Brooklyn accent, creating a more realistic portrayal. His mother, Kate Jerome, characterized by Mikayla Cook, was the master of her household and the audience, with quick quips and honesty, the crowd reacted to her every movement. She admirably employed a thick Brooklyn accent when speaking all of her lines, adding to the ambiance of the setting.

Another highlight was that of forlorn Blanche Morton, Eugene’s aunt, performed by Mackenzie Cannon, who adopted the physicality of a frail woman and skillfully used a Brooklyn accent, expertly encapsulating the desperation of a mother who cannot provide for her own children. As a family unit, the company earnestly explored their relationships, generating authentic connections on stage and forming scenes filled with laughter. Despite some microphone errors in the beginning, the cast and crew persevered, fixing and adjusting the problems efficiently. Additionally, at times, the cast stumbled with their lines or dropped the ends of their sentences, but the scenes and sentences were completely understood nonetheless.

The crew of this show’s work was praiseworthy. Coming in on time, all cues were well-executed, with radio music serving as background to monologues and spotlights shining on the actors.

In Ridley High School’s production of Brighton Beach Memoirs, the hilarity in everyday situations and hardships was delightfully displayed.

 

The Curious Savage – Unionville High School

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The Curious Savage by Unionville High School in Kennett Square, PA

November 15, 2018

Review submitted by Allegra Greenawalt of Harriton High School

When it comes to sanity, things may not be as black and white as they seem. Unionville High School’s compelling production of The Curious Savage challenged the notion that one’s state of mind is perhaps all a matter of judgement and perception.

Written in 1950 by John Patrick, The Curious Savage tells the story of the recently widowed Ethel Savage, whose large inheritance results in her placement into a sanatorium by her own greedy children. While there, she meets a variety of quirky new neighbors, and slowly begins to question whether her own family is any saner than the supposed misfits.

Unionville’s cast cleverly balanced both humor and heart, not only creating a laughable comedy but allowing the audience to connect to the very human sides of the eccentric characters as well. Perhaps the most impressive part of the production was the incredible group dynamic between the eleven actors onstage. Their evident chemistry and understanding of each other made the performance extremely authentic.

At the heart of the show was Grace Willey as the blue-haired Mrs. Ethel Savage. Willey’s constant witty remarks and wide range of expressions allowed her to easily embody her titular character. With her endearing hi-jinx and mischievous actions, she truly tied the cast together.

Portraying her fellow sanatorium patients, Meghan McCloskey (Florence), Soren Sheckells (Hannibal), Rachel Tierney (Fairy May), Zachary Cannon (Jeffrey), and Jenny Ammon (Mrs. Paddy) delighted the audience with their amusing quirks and strong commitment to character. Tierney in particular stole the show, her exuberant antics and impeccable comedic timing generated uproarious laughter from the audience.

Unionville’s production was technically stunning. The intricate set design by Jack Landolt, Daniel Dembek, and Haley Crawford greatly enhanced the experience of the performance, complete with a chandelier, piano, and plethora of wall decorations. Additionally, Ryan Meehan and Evan Vaughn’s sound design was especially impressive. It was nearly flawless in execution, which is almost unheard of in a high school environment.

Whether categorized as “sane” or not, it is our differences that give us a sense of individuality. Thought-provoking and unconventional, Unionville High School’s production of The Curious Savage uncovered the necessity of originality in an increasingly uniform and materialistic world.

 

Review submitted by Aiden Kaliner of Harriton High School

Love can be expressed in many ways, but most would think only the crazy to declare love as “take an umbrella, it’s raining.”  The exquisite production of The Curious Savage at Unionville High School questioned the outside world, and who is actually crazy today.

The Curious Savage, originally written by John Patrick in 1950, tells the story of recently widowed Mrs. Ethel Savage.  To ensure the money she inherited from her late husband does not fall into the wrong hands, Mrs. Savage’s stepchildren admit her to a nearby sanatorium. There, she finds her true family of misfits and ultimately examines the sanity of “normal people”, her stepchildren, and how it correlates to greed.

Unionville’s production featured a strong ensemble and group dynamic, namely from the sanatorium patients.  They possessed a variety of quirks and insecurities, allowing for each character to be themselves with brilliant acting choices.  Yet, with the challenge of individualism at hand, they all functioned and worked together cleverly to create a successful environment to compare themselves with the Savage children in the end.

Leading the cast, Grace Willey as Mrs. Ethel Savage committed to her role throughout the entire performance.  Through her sophisticated acting abilities, she was able to convey the two-faced role flawlessly.  While acting as a lovable and affectionate parental role to the patients in the sanatorium, she was able to immediately flip to a cunning and a sarcastic character once her children entered on stage.

Shining with excitement and laughable energy was Rachel Tierney as Fairy May.  She played the innocent and entertaining part from head to toe with such ease, making every joke she relayed extremely comical.  Portraying a character with extreme post-traumatic stress disorder and insecurities is extremely difficult, but Zack Cannon as Jeffrey was very believable.  For the whole show, Cannon was able to hold his hand against his face to convince the audience about his metaphorical scar.

The sound effects and microphones operated throughout the show were exceedingly professional.  The sound system was controlled perfectly with very few imperfections during the performance.  Additionally, the set was extremely intricate and colorful.  Even with a few minor mishaps, it effectively created the environment of the safe and “normal” home.

Even through extreme comedy, Unionville High School’s production of The Curious Savage strived for audiences to understand that sanity has many different perspectives and family is worth more than any amount of money.

Murder on the Nile – Upper Dublin High School

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Murder on the Nile by Upper Dublin High School in Maple Glen, PA

November 15, 2018

Review submitted by Charlotte Relyea of Interboro High School

Nine passengers, two murders, and one boat. This nightmarish combination was brought to life admirably in Upper Dublin High School’s production of Murder on the Nile.

One of Agatha Christie’s classic who-dunnits, Murder on the Nile is a story about a honeymooning couple who board a cruise ship along with seven other passengers. One passenger just happens to be the ex-lover of one of the two newlyweds, and this begets some very choppy waters. When a murder takes place on the ship, those who remain alive are left to put the puzzle pieces together, while also avoiding becoming the next victim of murder.

Upper Dublin High School’s production of Murder on the Nile was captivating and intense. The tension between the characters started out somewhat low, but grew successfully as issues arose on the ship that disrupted the once smooth sailing.

The talent of the cast was very evident with this show as they carried the mystery along and left the audience on the edge of their seats. Some honorable mentions are Hana Yolacan, who brought a devilish charm to the seemingly emotionally damaged Jacqueline De Severac, and Ben Helzner who gave level-headed vigor to the observant Canon Pennefather.

A few other lively characters were that of Bailey Rifkin, who brought a comical imperativeness to the ostentatious Miss Ffoliot-Ffoulkes, May Holm, who auspiciously displayed the strong feelings of the foreign Dr. Bessner, and Katie Gidley, who swimmingly portrayed the French maid, Louise.

Sound board operator Sam Spirt and Ben Fischer’s light crew truly helped to change the mood of the room at different points in the play, changing the lighting at high points of tension and adding sound effects to engage the audience as much as possible. Additionally, Lizzy O’Connell’s prop crew and Elyse Gonzales’ and Sam Burns’ costume crew transported the audience back to the 1940’s with their abundant use of time period appropriate props and beautiful vintage costumes.

Upper Dublin High School’s production of Murder on the Nile was a suspenseful and intriguing experience that both mystified and delighted the audience.

 

Review submitted by Liam McCaffrey of Interboro High School

It usually is fun to try and speculate “whodunit” in a mystery, looking for clues and trying to figure out the answer before it is revealed.  However, in Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Nile, it seems more frustrating as it appears feasible that it could have been anyone.

Upper Dublin High School’s production was a fantastic portrayal of the nine passengers, some who are familiar with each other, on a boat trip down the Nile River upon the Lotus.  Tensions begin to rise soon resulting in the murder of one of the guests.  Those remaining begin pointing fingers and attempt to sleuth out “whodunit”.

This performance revolved around the well-developed characters that progressed the plot and underwent various internal struggles.  Every member of the cast contributed to the diverse ensemble of the passengers through multiple European accents.

Ben Helzner portrayed Canon Pennefather remarkably, emphasizing the detective nature of him to its fullest extent.  He fulfilled the role excellently in the aspect of him being the most grounded character holding everything together.  Hana Yolacan as Jacqueline De Severac did an amazing job at truly revealing the internal struggles her character was handling with her expressive emotional shifts.

Among this daunting mystery were the comical highlights of Bailey Rifkin as Miss Ffoliot-Ffoulkes.  Through her ostentatious personality she brought a lightheartedness to the scene making her a stand-out character that everyone was drawn to.  Justin Zitelli as Simon Mostyn was able to strengthen the drama aspect through the abrupt physical and mental pain that his character faced during the entirety of the second act.

Ben Fischer deserves much applause for his ability to affect the mood of the stage and continuously move the story along with his use of lighting.  A stand-out moment was the use of the quick dimming of lights to near darkness in high areas of tension that aided the build-up and burst of tension.

Upper Dublin High School’s production of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Nile will have the viewer pointing fingers at every unique character and being astounded once it is revealed who did it.

The Sound of Music – Dock Mennonite Academy

Dock Menn Sound of Music 1

The Sound of Music by Dock Mennonite Academy in Souderton, PA

November 15, 2018

Review submitted by Patrick McCann of Harriton High School

In an increasingly divided political landscape, music’s power to break down barriers and bring people together is more important than ever. This fact is emphasized in Dock Mennonite Academy’s production of The Sound of Music as its characters use music to reconstruct a fractured family.

This classic musical, written by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein in 1959 and based on a true story, is set in Austria right before its annexation. It follows restless postulant Maria as she attempts to warm the heart of the stiff Captain von Trapp and bring joy to children who have forgotten what it is like to be loved. While her relationship with the Captain is strained at first, she soon begins to melt his icy exterior and show him the power of music.

The highlight of Dock Mennonite Academy’s production was its stunning vocals, which more than made up for the occasional dips in energy during extended scenes. Another high point was the set, which was impressively complex for a high school production.

Alexa Kennel (Maria) was the heart of the show. Her nuanced acting made the audience really feel her initial resistance to falling in love with the Captain, and her voice never failed to impress. Miguel Santiago (Captain von Trapp) provided a subdued yet still moving counterpoint to Kennel’s infectious energy, using rigid movements and stiff mannerisms to convey his character’s initial inability to move on.

The nuns, led by Olivia Celenza (Mother Abbess), were the show’s vocal high point, skillfully working character moments into their singing in “Maria” and “Climb Ev’ry Mountain.” Greta Schrag (Liesl) and David Michel (Rolf) were extremely genuine in the heartfelt song “Sixteen Going on Seventeen.” While the cast’s energy dipped at times, the ensemble always managed to pull together and deliver show stopping musical numbers.

Although the show required many complicated set changes, the stage crew did an admirable and effective job at completing them. The sound team, in a similarly difficult situation considering the extensive cast and consistently large amount of people on stage, also did an admirable job fighting through several technical difficulties.

All in all, Dock Mennonite Academy delivered a heartfelt performance that emphasized the power of music to bring people together with fittingly impressive vocals, showing that, as the Captain sings, “love can survive” even the bitterest disagreements.

 

Review submitted by Nina Gold of Harriton High School

If the dogs are biting, the bees are stinging, and you’re feeling sad, then Dock Mennonite Academy’s production of The Sound of Music is the show for you! Cast and crew came together to perform a heartfelt rendition of the timeless classic of love, family, and standing strong in the face of hate.

Loosely based on memoirs of Maria von Trapp, The Sound of Music tells the tale of a novice nun who takes on the job of a governess for a large family in Austria in 1938. After falling in love, first with the children and then with their widowed father, she and the von Trapps take their stand against the Nazi takeover of Austria. The musical opened on Broadway in 1959 to great critical acclaim, and has since received multiple revivals and adaptations, most notably a 1965 film version starring Julie Andrews.

With an intricate score and profound message, performing The Sound of Music is a significant challenge for any high school to tackle. Nevertheless, Dock Mennonite Academy handled themselves with grace and efficiency.

Alexa Kennel as Maria delivered a genuine and moving performance, and her pleasant vocals brought Rogers and Hammerstein’s beautiful music to life. Her warm energy was balanced by Miguel Santiago’s admirable portrayal of the cold Captain von Trapp; together, their strong presence and noticeable chemistry captured the hearts of the audience.

Standouts among the supporting characters included Ben Graham and Hannah Landis as Max Detweiler and Elsa Schraeder, respectively. Graham’s comic timing and enthusiastic delivery inspired hearty laughter, and Landis’ sweet demeanor added depth to her haughty character. Additionally, the large ensemble of nuns enchanted the audience with their remarkable harmonies and group dynamic.

The stage crew, led by stage managers Rachel McMichael and Dalton Moore, faced the challenge of moving an impressively complex set. Although some set changes were slightly lengthy, both cast and crew conducted themselves professionally and maintained a smooth energy. Despite some minor setbacks with sound and light cues, the technical elements of the show did not detract from the overall performance and added a certain amount of elegance and charm to the stage.

In today’s political climate, when anti-Semitism and prejudice are re-emerging at alarming rates, Dock Mennonite Academy’s production of The Sound of Music provided a refreshing reminder of the power of love in the face of overwhelming hate.

 

 

A Midsummer Night’s Dream – The Episcopal Academy

Episcopal Midsummer 1

A Midsummer Night’s Dream by The Episcopal Academy in Newtown Square, PA

November 6, 2018

Review submitted by Ke Ran (Lavender) Huang of Baldwin School

One couple escaped for love and another in the pursuit of love. An erroneous prank that may blind or brighten their eyes.  Episcopal Academy explores the truth behind love with the classic, Shakesperian comedy, A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night‘s Dream starts with Lysander and Hermia running away because they are star-crossed lovers. Demetrius is on a hunt for them, followed by his admirer, Helena. The forest spirit Oberon sends his servant Puck to help the young lovers, but he ends up pairing the wrong people together. Lysander and Demetrius both fall in love with Helena.  But eventually, the wrongs are corrected, and all the events of the evening seem like a dream to the lovers.

The overall production was a great success. The talented actors performed tremendously on the beautiful sets and with the original music. The choice of contemporary setting was made compatible by the amazing actors, and the show is definitely not one to miss.

The four lovers lead the storyline of the show, they dramatized a comedic yet charming love story. McKee Bond especially delights the show with his entertaining part of Demetrius, who is unwillingly followed by Helena. The lead actors were especially enthusiastic.

Phoebe Barr, in the role of Puck, brought the whole show together, while Arnav Shiva in the role of Nick Bottom made the audience weep with his hilarious performance. The fairies, led by Tina Ying as the Titania the fairy queen, added a romantic element to the show with their beautiful and fascinating dance.

Apart from the actors, the technical aspects were the focal point of the whole show. Original music was played by Olivia Cipperman, Alex Peters, and Naomi Hyman – all onstage. The lights designed by Laura Patterson, faded in and out with the scenes, and these created patterns that contributed to the mood. The spotlight on the musicians at the start of the scene was a great pleasure for the eyes.

With a romantic atmosphere, artistic sets, and talented actors, Episcopal Academy beautifully unfolded a true fairytale and that left the audience with a joyous dream, a sprinkle of laughter decorated by perhaps a question of what true love means.

 

Review submitted by Katrina Conklin of Baldwin School

Walking into the Episcopal Academy’s black box was at first disorienting: the theater had been completely transformed into an enchanted forest, with greenery sprouting from every corner as if it had grown there. By the time the lights dimmed and the music began, the audience found themselves transported into the world of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Written in the late sixteenth century by William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream chronicles a mysterious series of events that occur deep within the woods outside of Athens. Fates intertwine among four lovesick youths in a whimsical fairy kingdom, and a ragtag group of working-class men attempting to rehearse a play. At the center of the chaos is the lovably mischievous Puck, who brings the parties together with his supernatural powers.

As a whole, the production was a delight to watch. Through the actors’ intense physicality and comedic timing, Shakespeare’s famous comedy was brought to life.

The four lovers, played by Jacob Viscusi (Lysander), McKee Bond (Demetrius), Cerena Robertson (Hermia), and Bryce Nabulsi (Helena), were a highlight of the performance, executing grueling fight scenes that were a thrill to watch. The four actors each brought their very best to the stage.

By far the most memorable comedic performance came from the Rude Mechanicals, who stole the show(s) with their zealous effort to perform for the Duke of Athens and his wife. Leading the pack was Arnav Shiva as the scatterbrained Nick Bottom. He induced roars of laughter from the audience with his cartoonish demeanor. Other ensemble standouts included Christian Mandeville as the tinker Tom Snout, who pours his heart into the role of The Wall; Will Hopkins, as the bellows-mender Francis Flute, portrays the Mechanicals’ heroine with reluctant hilarity.

Though Midsummer is one of Shakespeare’s most widely performed comedies, the technical components of Episcopal’s show ensured that this production was unlike any other. Student musicians bolstered the performance with subtle yet effective melodies, and the original compositions “Enter the Fairies” and “The Fairy Lullaby” added other layers of creativity to the performance. Transitions between scenes were practically seamless, which is the hallmark of a superb stage crew— allowing for the magic of the woods to come to life.

Performing Shakespeare is typically difficult, yet Episcopal beautifully halted reality for two hours with their captivating production.

Another Opening, Another Show!!

Cappies 2018-2019 has begun!

The Cappies first organizational meeting of the year was held on Sunday October 21st at Interboro High School.  Over 200 student critics, mentors, and directors were in attendance.

The Cappies program has thirty-nine high schools involved this year from New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware.  The first Cappies’ shows start the weekend of November 3rd and the last show will be in April.  Each show will be attended by Cappies critics from various teams, an average of thirty critics per show.  The critics each write a review of the show and the top two reviews as chosen by the Cappies mentors will be published on this blog.

Cappies 2018-2019 started this past weekend and the year ends with the Fourteenth Annual Cappies Gala on Sunday May 19th where the Cappies trophies will be given out for over twenty categories rewarding excellence both on stage and behind the scenes.

The Cappies steering committee is looking forward to another year of celebrating high school theatre in the Greater Philadelphia Area!

Go to the Greater Philadelphia Cappies website at http://www.cappies.com/gpc or contact admingpc@cappies.com with questions or requests for more information.