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W.T. Woodson High School David and Lisa

By • May 12th, 2010 • Category: Cappies

Today, America takes pride in the equality of its citizens, promoting tolerance and acceptance. But fifty years ago, America was a different nation. Most Americans, exposed solely to people just like themselves, found the unknown frightening. It was a time when people were alienated because of any deviation from normalcy, when those with psychological diseases were discriminated against, when children with mental illnesses were locked in institutions by parents who were scared to admit there was a problem. W.T. Woodson High School’s recent production of David and Lisa took the audience back to such a time.

The characters of David and Lisa were introduced in a novel by author and psychiatrist Theodore Isaac Rubin, who based the story on case studies. The story inspired Frank and Eleanor Perry’s 1962 film and was later adapted for the stage. The story of David and Lisa is an unusual one, told through a series of short scenes. The play follows David Clemens, a teenager whose intelligence is overshadowed by his severe obsessive-compulsive urges and fear of being touched. After being sent to a school for psychologically troubled children, David meets Lisa, whose split personalities intrigue him. Though David insists that he is observing Lisa as a mere study, he begins to care deeply for her. As David slowly helps Lisa recover, he realizes that she, in return, is healing him.

Stuart Loomis and Erica Messenger anchored the show as David and Lisa, respectively. Loomis’ strong stage presence and mature characterization contrasted nicely with Messenger’s high energy and childlike enthusiasm. Messenger – whose dialogue consisted primarily of seemingly nonsensical rhymes – brought depth to a difficult character.

Energy occasionally lagged throughout the production, but several actors still delivered standout performances. Emily Adler’s mature performance as the caring but occasionally overbearing Mrs. Clemens was particularly impressive. The marked difference between her motherly relationship with Loomis and her clearly disapproving interaction with other students at the school successfully emphasized her inability to accept her son’s problems.

The set (Jen Grottle) was comprised of multiple gray panels, which were maneuvered around the stage to create a series of different rooms. One of the most impressive aspects of this arrangement was the ease at which it could be changed. Thanks to the stage crew (Jessica MacDonald, Jennifer Grape, Jenna Pratz, and Nora Hayman), members of which moved individual panels with remarkable speed and agility, scene transitions were quick and well-executed.

W.T. Woodson’s engaging production reminded the audience that, as David himself learned, “the important thing” is not what others think – but what you think of yourself.

Elisabeth Bloxam of Westfield High School

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