Theater Info for the Washington DC region

Chantilly High School Street Scene

By • Oct 27th, 2009 • Category: Cappies

The roaring twenties brought many things: prohibition, short skirts, and all that jazz, to name a few. It also brought Street Scene, the 1929 Pulitzer Prize-winning play by Elmer Rice. The play was recently revived at Chantilly High School.

Rice’s play dealt with adultery, racism, alcoholism, subjects that were, at the time of its writing, still theatrical taboos. It followed the lives and machinations of the residents of a tenement building in 1920s New York City. Characters ranged from the Maurrants, a working class family with skeletons in the closet, to the Kaplans, a Jewish family suffering the anti-Semitism of their neighbors.

The show started right away with a true sight to behold: the set, designed and constructed by Chantilly students, was gorgeous. Its construction definitely looked professional-grade, and it very realistically resembled a tenement on a hot summer’s day. One could even see the “interior” building through the open windows. These students took great care in making the set as natural as possible.

As the young Sam Kaplan, Miles Drawdy was exceptionally captivating. His portrayal was emotionally powerful and engaging. Another believable character was Mr. Maurrant, the patriarch of the troubled household, played by Chris Albrigo. His character took a very clear and tragic journey, as Maurrant morphed from a confident working man to a broken husk.

Despite the natural setting of the play, many characters seemed to be simply reading their lines. Characters sometimes looked directed, as in they did what they did simply because they had rehearsed it that way. Several moments of the play became very staged and not very believable.

The play, though very heavy in dramatic content, offered plenty of comical characters portrayed by a bevy of talented performers. Corey Davis was hilarious as the drunken sweetheart Mae and Taylor Jarrell demonstrated his comic timing as the Italian immigrant Lippo. Kenny Lau elicited laughs even before uttering his lines as the grumpy old Mr. Kaplan, as Lau’s physicality and facial expressions were amusing by themselves.

Despite its age, Street Scene resonates with today’s generations, dealing with problems that are not too different with those encountered today. Due to the subject matter, it is no surprise that some had trouble expressing the complex emotions of their characters.

On the whole, Chantilly High School’s production was an enjoyable one, offering some very commendable performances in a very real atmosphere. Thanks to Chantilly, the twenties gave another good roar.

by Josh Simon of Winston Churchill HS

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