A… My Name is Alice by Jenkintown High School in Jenkintown, PA
March 19, 2019
Review submitted by Julia Jennings of Upper Moreland High School
Creating a poignant and compelling portrait of women’s experience across all settings and stages of life, Jenkintown High School charmed the audience with an “all girl band” of powerful performers in their production of A…My Name is Alice.
This musical revue incorporates twenty-one different songs and scenes united solely in their narrative of women and the world. Originally produced by The Women’s Project at the Village Gate Off Broadway, the show examines the diverse joys, sorrows, and complex relationships that women face, driving at the heart of what it is like to be a woman in modern society.
Jenkintown High School took on this difficult production with incredible feeling and strength, many actresses having to carry entire scenes on their own. This talented and passionate cast of almost entirely women was perfectly highlighted by a dynamic lighting design and versatile set to create an emotional feminist tour de force that swept the audience off its feet.
The ensemble of “Alices” worked together extremely effectively, creating complex and ever-changing chemistries as each actress filled several roles across different scenes. The cast displayed a compelling emotional connection with each other that appeared as a powerful force in the show. Individual performances also stood out as actresses were impressively able to create a memorable character through their short vignettes. As Ms. Mae, Aniya Cager was an audience favorite with her incredible mastery of a complex and lengthy monologue. Emily Munson similarly created a comedic character as the poet, never failing to make the audience laugh through her overblown, though metaphoric portrayal. Actresses such as Marielle Zakrzwski and Yusra Ali also very effectively created more serious stories in scenes including “Emily the M.B.A.” and “Pay Them No Mind”.
The ensemble vocals in numbers such as “All Girl Band”, “Bluer Than You”, and “Lifelines” were incredibly powerful. Solo pieces like “The Portrait” and “The French Monologue and Song” also stood out with brilliant performances from vocalists Madison Gardner and Maria Cotsis.
The set was simple, yet very versatile and dynamic, creating authenticity for settings such as a kindergarten classroom, and the bedroom of a teenage girl. The lighting was another highlight of the performance, changing color and focus to reflect the changing mood of each scene. Despite occasional difficulties with the sound, the amplification of the large cast was balanced very effectively. The stage crew was a surprise highlight of the performance, appearing between scenes with pep and enthusiasm.
Jenkintown High School’s production of A…My Name is Alice powerfully gave voice to women across all aspects of society, encompassing them together through the idea of “Alice” to create a memorable, inspiring piece that left the audience with absolutely no doubt that “Alice is doing alright!”
Review submitted by Patrick McCann of Harriton High School
How do you define feminism? Coming up with a definition that encompasses every woman’s experience is difficult, if not impossible. Jenkintown High School’s production of A… My Name is Alice made no effort to define such a daunting term, but in not doing so may have managed to accomplish something even more impressive: capturing the raw essence of womanhood.
Conceived by Joan Silver and Julianne Boyd, A… My Name is Alice is a musical revue, a patchwork of disconnected songs and monologues. It presents a kaleidoscope of modern women: friends, rivals, mothers, daughters, poets, businesswomen, and even an all-women’s basketball team. But unlike some feminist plays, A… My Name is Alice makes no preachy pretenses. Instead of focusing on cheesy messages and feel-good songs, it pays tribute to a variety of female lifestyles, celebrating their common thread of womanhood.
The highlight of Jenkintown’s production was the clear community the cast and crew had built. From the opening number, a jazzy ode to female solidarity titled “All Girl Band,” the actresses’ chemistry was undeniable.
Maria Cotsis stole the show with her magnetic stage presence, drawing all eyes towards her whether she was singing, speaking, or simply posing on stage. She effortlessly ducked in and out of different accents and inflections, and flawlessly delivered four minutes of hilariously nonsensical French in “The French Monologue and Song.” As the First Alice in “Friends,” Cotsis masterfully embodied several different ages while pulling at the audience’s heartstrings with her stunning vocals.
As the show’s only running gag, Emily Munson had to maintain a difficult level of continuity across her three scenes as a beat-style poet without becoming boring and repetitive. She did so hilariously, leaving the audience in stitches whether she was mimicking a wilting plant or a dying swan. Aniya Cager was another comedic powerhouse, holding a conversation with herself for almost eight minutes. Madison Gardner left some members of the audience in tears with her heart-wrenching rendition of “The Portrait,” and Yusra Ali sang gorgeously in both “Pay Them No Mind” and “Friends.” The cast’s chemistry was intimately beautiful to watch, with several actresses crying, cheering each other on, and exchanging firm looks of solidarity throughout the performance.
The simple but effective lighting managed to be both simplistic and engrossing, making each scene unique without becoming distracting. The stage crew was equally impressive, incorporating the cast into the short and slick scene changes in a way that made the interludes between the scenes almost as visually interesting as the scenes themselves.
With a charming cast, slick lighting, and performances raw with emotion, Jenkintown High School’s production of A… My Name is Alice embodied the un-embodiable, capturing all the messiness and complexity of womanhood in its purest form.