Elden Street Players Flowers For AlgernonBy Laura & Mike Clark • Jun 14th, 2012 • Category: Reviews
Elden Street Players
Industrial Strength Theater, Herndon, VA
Through June 30th
2:30 with intermission
Reviewed June 9th, 2012
Flowers For Algernon is a play adapted by David Rogers based on Daniel Keyes’ novel. A 30-year-old mentally retarded man undergoes an experimental brain surgery to increase his mental capacity. Both Charlie and Algernon (the experimental mouse) at first appear to excel in their thirst for knowledge or cheese respectively, but then Algernon begins to show signs of regression. So does Charlie. This is a deeply moving play (as the sniffles in the audience will attest).
Director Gloria Dugan knows how to get her actors to dig deep and really get into their character. Everyone was extremely believable. Charlie Gordon played by Matt Baughman had the characteristics down beautifully. Throughout the performance you saw Baughman grow from a shy, happy, simple young man into a person capable of complex emotions and feelings. Baughman made excellent transitions between stages of Charlie’s development. May of the transitions were subtle, and you really couldn’t see the change happening. But by the end of the scene, it was obvious something had happened. One scene that stands out is the day Charlie realizes that people used to make fun of him because he was “dumb.” Some of Charlie’s coworkers have him come over to celebrate his promotion at work, then send him to the store for something and they all leave. Charlie is hurt deeply by that. As his IQ grows he realizes that he is smarter than his coworkers. His supervisor Mrs. Donner, played by Cecily Michelle, ends up firing him because he is too smart and the other employees are intimidated by him.
Charlie’s night school teacher Alice Kinnian helps Charlie grow and learn until his metal abilities surpasses her. Played by Lauren Palmer Kiesling, she helps Charlie grow and eventually falls in love, but is also threatened by his intelligence. The two have a strong bond and she stays with Charlie until it is Charlie who tells her it is time to go.
This play is filled with so much tension that when funny moments happen, and there are a few, the laughter that follows is a release from all the pent-up emotions that have been building. The entire cast was great. The doctors and laboratory staff worked well together, than bickered as they disagreed about what was happening to Algernon and Charlie. Charlie’s family, visible in both flashbacks and current day, was a nice addition to show us what Charlie was remembering rather than just telling us.
Set Designer Michael Schlabach used a minimal set to show the three main areas of the play primarily a lab office, an apartment, and a home setting. Costume Designer Judy Whelihan took the 70’s look and made the actors realistic without being overly flashy. The main playing area was covered in black paint and then made a white rat was painted center stage. The other technical aspects of the performance (lights and sound effects) were smooth and well run.
Elden Street’s Flowers For Algernon was a wonderfully powerful production which should be remembered next year in the WATCH Awards. The performance we attended was nearly sold out, a waiting list was used to handle the people that arrived without tickets pre-ordered. Make plans to see this show! Be aware that there is a live mouse used in the show.
Flowers for Algernon prompts us to question the limits of science and the iconic “nature vs. nurture” conundrum. If we manipulate nature to produce genius, have we necessarily made things better? Do we have the right to transform a life so radically? Hasn’t Charlie become a more desirable and useful person and isn’t that justification enough? Many people believe that improving intelligence either through drugs or surgery will improve human society. This play forces us to ponder this question and draw our own conclusions. Based on the book by Daniel Keyes, the play’s author, David Rogers has given us a story that is both inspiring and heartbreaking. I dedicate this to all the Charlies in the world.
Gloria DuGan, Director
Photos by Traci J. Brooks
- Dr.Jay Strauss: Dell Pendergrast
- Professor Harold Nemur: Stuart Fischer
- Alice Kinnian: Lauren Palmer Kiesling
- Burt Seldon: Steve Custer
- Charlie Gordon: Matt Baughman
- Frank O’Reilly: Michael Schwartz
- Gina/Anne Welberg: Nicole Jacobs
- Mrs. Donner/Mrs. Nemur: Cecily Michelle
- Joe: Ian Burns
- Rose Gordon (Mother): Susan d. Garvey
- Little Charlie: Sam Fonss
- Matt Gordon (Father): Ian Mark Brown
- Child Norma: Cecily Rood
- Ellen/Jackie Welberg: Becca Harney
- Teen Charlie: Stuart Orloff
- Chairlady/Mrs. Harvey: Cara Fortner
- Mrs. Mooney: Rebecca Lenehan
- Norma: Kara Williams
- Producer: Janet Bordeaux
- Director: Gloria DuGan
- Stage Manager: Don Petersen
- Assisted by: Laura Moody
- Running Crew: Jesse Fortner, Amy Fonss, Wendy Rood
- Set Designer: Michael Schlabach
- Master Carpenter : Michael Schlabach
- Set Construction: Jeff Boatright, Skip Gresko, Todd Huse, Lorraine Magee, Cicely Michelle, Marty Sullivan, Ian Brown, Richard Durkin
- Set Painting: Lorraine Magee
- Lighting Designer: Franklin C.Coleman
- Assisted by: AnnMarie Castrigno, Dan Clemmensen, Julie Clemmensen, Wade Corder, Richard Durkin, Richard Hildebrand, Christine Nolan, Christopher Smith
- Light Board Operators: Christine Nolan, Richard Hildebrand
- Sound Designer: Stan Harris
- Sound Board Operator: Brian Christensen
- Set Dressing and Properties: Kim and Nano Gowland
- Costume Designer: Judy Whelihan
- Hair and Make-up Designer: Arthur Rodger
- House Management: Dave Sinclair
- Box Office Management: Sandy Sulllivan, Matthew Thompson, Richard Durkin
- Publicity: Rich Klare, Evan Hoffman
- Playbill: Ginger Kohles
- Photography: Traci J. Brooks
Disclaimer: Elden Street Players provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.
This article can be linked to as: http://washingtondc.showbizradio.com/goto/8191.
Laura & Mike Clark started ShowBizRadio in August 2005 because they love live theater. They each have both performed in and worked behind the scenes in DC area productions, as well as earned a Career Studies Certificate in Theater from Northern Virginia Community College. Mike & Laura are each members of the American Theatre Critics Association, and Mike is a member of the Online News Association.