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McLean High School The House of Blue Leaves

By • May 2nd, 2007 • Category: Cappies

It’s anything but an ordinary day outside, but in this tiny Queens apartment, the insanity is status quo. A mélange of outrageous characters and even more outrageous situations came together beautifully in McLean High School’s performance of the dark comedy The House of Blue Leaves.

John Guare’s portrait of nobodies adrift in a sea of their own nobody-dom takes place during the space of one day – October 4th, 1965, the day the Pope came to New York. Hapless zookeeper-come-songwriter Artie Shaughnessy (an adroit Mike Gibson) spends the day juggling his insane wife, ambitious girlfriend, and vaguely criminal son, all while trying vainly to achieve Hollywood songwriting stardom.

Strong, simple lighting by Matt Schnall was creative yet minimalist, establishing time and working perfectly with Aaron Wolfe & Melody Ain‘s towering, ornate set.

None of the characters here are simple, each ranging from clownish to cruel or both at once. Most adept at balancing the two was Gen Blau as Bunny, Artie’s platinum-haired mistress, whose rapid shifts between endearingly bizarre to nastily contentious were never forced and always resulted in hilarity.

But it was the show-stopping, scene-stealing Malka Roth as the hilariously unhinged Bananas Shaughnessy who kept the show in motion. Roth took Bananas far beyond already comical dialogue and imbued her with a ghostlike, charming presence and clever, deliberate stage business. Not one line lacked the sincerity with a twinge of crazy that defined Roth’s character. Matching her excellence was Dan Lee as hapless son Ronnie, whose monologue at the top of the second act dripped with a mixture of desperate honesty and infuriated cynicism, supported by a ferocious energy that made his hilarious appearance seem entirely too short.

Julia Vans used her brief appearance as confused starlet Corinna Stroller to show off a splendid ability to keep a gag funny use after use and, most impressively, to provide a unique touch of vulnerability and honesty when telling the audience about her deafness. Her candid request – “don’t tell, okay?” – had audience members actually shaking their heads in acquiescence.

The three main leads were strong in their interactions with one another, but the appearance of more than one or two more characters made a scene suddenly feel awkward and aimless, exacerbating middling energy and bogging down the rapid pace that is the script’s core. However, this was partially countered by the fearless physical comedy of Lee and the four nuns. The makeup, while impressively creating a separate look for each character, left their ages very ambiguous and eventually confusing.

McLean’s talent made the ups and downs of this difficult show pure joy to watch – whether in laughter, shock, or simply going bananas.

by Lauryn McCarter of Herndon

This review was written by a Cappies high school critic. The Cappies were founded in 1999, for the purpose of celebrating high school theater arts and providing a learning opportunity for theater and journalism students. You can learn more at cappies.com.

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is a program which was founded in 1999, for the purpose of celebrating high school theater arts and providing a learning opportunity for theater and journalism students. You can learn more at cappies.com.

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