Chantilly High School I Remember MamaBy Cappies • Nov 16th, 2011 • Category: Cappies
As a multi-generational Norwegian family struggles to stay afloat in an early 20th century San Francisco, they connect and grow in moments of pain, joy, and love. Chantilly High School’s performance of I Remember Mama was a powerful account of the importance of one’s roots.
I Remember Mama, based on Kathryn Forbes’ novel Mama’s Bank Account, was written by playwright John Van Druten. It first appeared on Broadway in 1944 and featured the debut of Marlon Brando. I Remember Mama is a play told in flashback by Katrin Hanson (Alex Johnson), who is writing a novel about her life as a child and the influence her Mama (Amanda Miesner) had on her in her youth. As Mama tries to keep her family happy and healthy, she teaches Katrin the true value of devotion.
Chantilly’s cast and crew built a beautiful and realistic world for their characters to develop in. From the Norwegian coat of arms hanging on their wall to the near perfection of their accents, the Hansons’ world was swimming in detail. Every actor had a strong dedication to their character that gave the narrative meaning.
Portraying Katrin Hanson was Alex Johnson, who gave both sides of her character, the adult and the child, a gentle sort of charm. Her captivating smile and consistency as the play’s narrator and her growth from child to adult made her an important bridge between the audience and the story. As Mama, Amanda Miesner was able to create deep connections with her fellow actors, including Johnson. Miesner carried herself both in body and in tone as the mother figure of the show, and her ability to play both sentimental and comedic moments with grace made her not only believable, but also loveable.
From the moment he staggered onstage as Uncle Chris, John Downey came to life. His ceaseless energy and loud-mouthed antics made for some of the funniest moments in the show, and his interactions with the children in his family, and Mama, were surprisingly tender. Another strong actor was Natalie Spitzel, playing Dagmar, one of Katrin’s sisters. Spitzel was plucky and fun as Dagmar, making her a consistent source of comedy throughout.
The set (Chloe Vasquez, AJ Gresick, Drew Pardo, and Roxy Schumate) was one of the most impressive aspects of the show. It featured not only a box set that served as the Hanson’s house, but also a brick wall that had the ability to open and reveal even more moveable set pieces. The detail in the Hanson’s house was incredible, with family portraits, a coat of arms, and abundant period furniture. Another strong element of the play with impressive detail was the costumes (Kelly Dodd, Roxy Schumate). Many of the main characters changed outfits multiple times during the play, and every single costume was true to the time period and setting. The props (Greg Baker, Carly Doolittle) were realistic and exact; even an ice cream soda proved real when a character drank the entire thing.
Chantilly High School’s production of I Remember Mama was an evocative performance that captivated the heart with real, human characters, an undeniably authentic setting, and a clear message: never forget where you came from.
by Mitchell Buckley of Westfield High School
Photos by Kelly Johnson
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