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McLean Community Players What I Did Last Summer

By • Oct 28th, 2012 • Category: Reviews
What I Did Last Summer by A. R. Gurney
McLean Community Players
Alden Theatre, McLean, VA
Through November 4th
2:00 with one intermission
$16/$14 Seniors, Students, McLean residents
Reviewed October 25th, 2012

What I Did Last Summer is a look back at a boy’s transition to manhood in 1945. Charlie (Forrest Browne) was struggling to find his place in life, torn between spending time with his friends (Thomas Kelty and Maria Berkowitz), an annoying older sister (Catherine La Valley), an overprotective mother (Roberta Chaves), and a father fighting in the Pacific. Charlie’s solution is to get a job with Anna, the eccentric Pig Woman (Jessie Roberts). Anna pays Charlie more than fifty cents an hour by teaching more about life than art.

As a look at the many relationships teenagers have to figure out, this play was a success. Forrest Browne was very sympathetic as he fought with his mother, who was also sympathetic as she tried to hold the family together. At times Browne appeared to be much younger than 14, while at other times he was very mature. His interactions with Roberts were brief, but had a profound impact on Charlie’s thoughts and decisions.

Roberts Chaves was wonderful as the stressed mother. Was she always in charge of herself, or was she about to break? A play focusing on Grace’s life (perhaps in three acts, her teenage years, the time period of this play, and then in the 1950s) would be a treat. The scene with Grace talking with Anna was the high point of the production as the two women played catch with the conversation.

The other actors were satisfactory. La Valley nailed the aspects of an annoying older sister, while Kelty and Berkowitz’s relationship with Charlie was fine in their smaller scenes, their final scene didn’t quite hit the right emotional peaks they were shooting for.

Dinnie Whitson crafted a basic set, centered around a garden bench that served as automobile, dining chair, and couch. Anna’s home was built in silhouette on stage left, and with Chris Hardy’s excellent lighting the areas of the stage kept the audience’s focus on the correct areas of the stage as the players moved from place to place. Jon Roberts’ soundscapes (such as automobile traffic while driving, waves lapping at Anna’s home) were very well designed, although a touch too loud at the rehearsal I attended. Farrell Hartigan’s costumes were attractive, although did teenagers regularly wear jeans in 1945? Grace’s bright red cloak caused a chuckle as she entered after Anna described her journey through the woods to Anna’s home.

One aspect I didn’t really like was part of the script: the asides that each actor presented directly to the audience arguing that their role was the main character in the play. This mainly served to wreck the emotions that had been building in each scene. Possibly the asides would have been effective if only Charlie had done this, but we really don’t need another version of “The Wonder Years” or “A Christmas Story.”

If you remember coming of age in the 1940’s, or with the help of a teacher, or had disagreements with your parents, What I Did Last Summer will strike a chord with you. McLean’s What I Did Last Summer runs one more weekend.

Director’s Notes

I readily admit I am a Gurney fan. I love lyricism of his writing and the genuine fondness and wit and biting accuracy he uses to chronicle the American middle class.

I was particularly drawn to What I Did Last Summer because of the time period-summer 1945, and the presentational form of the play.

The time period evokes personal memories of what it was like in the waning days of WW II, when we could begin to look forward to being reunited with loved ones and recovering from disruption to our lives caused by the demands for support of the war effort.

The presentational form of the play gives the actors the challenge of having to use pantomime to create some of the scenes. In addition, each of the teen-age characters has a chance to make some grown up choices.

One reviewer said this was a play that had something to say about the conflict between materialism and idealism which is so basic to the American dream. But I think it is also a play about relationships-childhood friends, mother/daughter, brother/sister, teacher/student, in one of the most important summers in our history.

Hope you enjoy it as much as we have enjoyed putting it together.

Adriana Hardy, Director

Photo Gallery

Forrest Browne and Roberta Chaves Maria Berkowitz, Forrest Browne, Thomas Kelty
Forrest Browne and Roberta Chaves
Maria Berkowitz, Forrest Browne, Thomas Kelty
Catherine La Valley, Thomas Kelty, Maria Berkowitz, Roberta Chaves, Forrest Browne, Jessie Roberts Roberta Chaves and Jessie Roberts
Catherine La Valley, Thomas Kelty, Maria Berkowitz, Roberta Chaves, Forrest Browne, Jessie Roberts
Roberta Chaves and Jessie Roberts

Photos by Traci J. Brooks

Cast

  • Charlie: Forrest Browne
  • Ted: Thomas Kelty
  • Grace: Roberta Chaves
  • Elsie: Catherine La Valley
  • Bonny: Maria Berkowitz
  • Anna: Jessie Roberts

Production Team

  • Director: Adriana Hardy
  • Producer: Terry Yates
  • Stage Manager: Douglas F. Yriart
  • Assistant Stage Manager: Shayne Gardner
  • Set Design/ Set Dressing: Dinnie Whitson
  • Sound Design: Jon Roberts
  • Lighting Design: Chris Hardy
  • Assisted by: Rich La Valley
  • Costumes: Farrell Hartigan
  • House Manager: Columba Hoban
  • Combat Choreographer: Carl Brandt long
  • Props: Summer Donaldson
  • Media Relations: Brent Stone
  • Publicity: Cathy Farnsworth, Laura Dailey
  • Marketing/Ad Sales: Tula Pendergrast, Columba Hoban
  • Master Carpenter: Bernie Gmiter
  • Construction Chief: George Farnsworth
  • Assisted by: Bill Glikbarg, Cathy Farnsworth, Bob Schroth, Dinnie Whitson, Terry Yates
  • Makeup: Rachael lubarsky
  • Running Crew: Julia Walker, Emma Knapp, Claire Tse, Denise Severino, Rich La Valley, Bob Zeigler, Summer Donaldson
  • Auditions: Jennifer Levy, Cathy and George Farnsworth, Sydney-Chanele Dawkins
  • Opening Night Party: Bunny Bonnes and Tula Pendergrast
  • Webmaster, Playbill: George Farnsworth

Disclaimer: McLean Community Players provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review. MCP also purchased advertising on the ShowBizRadio web site, which did not influence this review.

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has performed in local productions, but prefers to be behind the scenes. Mike earned a Career Studies Certificate in Theater from Northern Virginia Community College. Mike is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association and the Online News Association.

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