Hayfield Secondary School Marvin’s RoomBy Cappies • Apr 17th, 2014 • Category: Cappies
Every year, approximately 50,000 people are diagnosed with leukemia, a cancer of the bone marrow and blood. Thirty percent of these people will find a matching bone marrow donor within their families, while the rest are left to scour the national registry. Statistics like these often incite discussions on how to find a cure, and how to help, but often disregard the taxing physical and emotional effects the disease can place on a person. The story of a cancer patient and the impact it has on herself and her family was presented with maturity and poise in Hayfield Secondary School’s heart wrenching production of Marvin’s Room.
First performed in Chicago in 1990, Marvin’s Room was written by Scott McPherson, whose experiences as an AIDS victim during the height of the epidemic greatly influenced his writing. The play then went onto be performed off-Broadway and the Kennedy Center, and saw a 1996 film adaptation starring Meryl Streep, Diane Keaton and Leonardo diCaprio. Set in a sunny Florida town, Marvin’s Room follows the kindhearted Bessie, who resides with her ill father and aging aunt as their primary caretaker. However, when Bessie is diagnosed with leukemia, she is forced to reach out to her sister–a runaway free spirit whom she hasn’t seen in twenty years–and her two nephews in search of a bone marrow match. As the story unfolds, confessions are made, tears are shed and an entire range of human emotion is experienced.
Cast members adeptly handled the seriousness and sensitivity of the subject with sophistication. Katie Wattendorf magnificently anchored the production and tackled the immensely demanding role of Bessie with impressive realism, creating a credible character. Noah Mutterperl imbued the role of the rebellious, teenaged Hank with ardor, providing several levels of complexity to his role, from violent outbursts to genuine moments with Wattendorf. Mutterperl demonstrated a commanding stage presence and his commitment to character, even when the spotlight was elsewhere, was utterly fantastic. As Bessie’s estranged sister Lee, Allisha Edwards delivered a perfect balance of edge and sincerity.
Supporting actors also brought fantastic intensity to the production. Cindy Funes and Hank von Kolnitz as Bessie’s dotty aunt Ruth and adorable nephew Charlie showcased some of the best chemistry in the entire show, constantly feeding off each other’s energy. Both actors also demonstrated superb comedic timing, producing necessary lighthearted moments in such a heavy drama. As the show’s bedridden titular character, Daniel Kingsley did not have any spoken lines but managed to add to the family dynamic through excellent physicality.
Technical aspects were simple in design, but stunningly effective in execution. A deconstructed set created a personal, intimate atmosphere for the production. A kaleidoscopic range of costumes, hair and makeup distinguished differences in characters, visually depicting the Florida environment as well as the physical transformation of Bessie during her battle with leukemia. Lighting and sound were consistent throughout the show, and occasional hiccups were handled with professionalism by actors and tech members.
Few high school theater departments are able to undertake such a serious topic with the respect and honesty it deserves, but the talented cast and crew were able to do just that. During one of the most emotional points of the show, Bessie reflects on her life and remarks, “I’ve been so lucky to have been able to love someone so much.” Indeed, audience members were lucky to have attended such a wonderfully executed performance, one of pain, patience, solidarity and strength, as Hayfield Secondary School’s production of Marvin’s Room.
by Yena Seo of Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology
Photos provided by Hayfield Secondary School
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