Theater Info for the Washington DC region

Seton School Up the Down Staircase

By • Jan 11th, 2011 • Category: Cappies

Although on the surface Calvin Coolidge High School is a place with “kids sprawling in the classrooms, yawning in assembly and pushing through the halls,” Sylvia Barrett, the optimistic young English teacher, finds that her students are much more than a “pupil load.”

Seton School’s 2011 Senior Class’s lively production of Up the Down Staircase was touched with the poignancy that brought success to the 1965 Bel Kaufman novel and the mid-60s play and film, dramatized by Christopher Sergel. The story follows the challenges Sylvia faces as a new teacher encountering the bureaucracy and student apathy. Natalie Holmes’ exceptional directing rivals many adults. She has crafted a production with a plethora of well-developed characters, unremitting fervor and dynamic relationships.

Christian Kleb, the humorously emoting Dr. Maxwell Clarke, began the show with a show of strength. The cast continued with enthusiasm and dedication to their characters. Whether emulating styles of 1980’s teens or assembling a wardrobe for the colorful faculty, Liz Rogers and Natalie Holmes costuming enhanced character development through, while Leslie Zapiain’s hair and make-up design revived the ’80’s and distinguished teachers from students. The students and the lighting technicians admirably worked to overcome the challenges of performing on a small stage with limited resources. Occasionally, costumes and lighting made it difficult to observe facial expressions, and though some actors seemed uncomfortable in their roles, the majority embraced their characters and were highly entertaining.

Brittany Brown’s vivid expression and spot-on reactions made her a convincing Sylvia Barrett and a natural leading lady. Beatrice Schachter’s (Leslie Zapiain) warmth and motherly advice demonstrated her wisdom and compassion as the friendship between Sylvia and herself flourished. Whether tossing tea bags or popping in for announcements, the delightfully eccentric nurse (Margaret Rohan) exuded contagious enthusiasm. The scattered and stressed Sadie Finch came to life with the talented portrayal by Sarah Zapiain.

Sylvia’s primary goal became keeping her students in school. Her main battle was fought with the belligerent Joe Ferone, a difficult role aptly handled by Ricky Garcia. Anna Smith captured Alice Blake’s whimsical romanticism in her soliloquy, while Joey Rubin revealed Charles Arrons’ nervous sensitivity in his “suggestion box” notes. Maggie Murphy sweetly played the caring Carole Blanca who contrasted with sassy and stylish Linda Rosen (Maria Guyant). Lou Martin’s (Brendan Koehr) fun-loving antics secured his position as class clown, while the energetic Elena Neumark (Clare Duda) contributed to the bedlam. Edward Williams’ (Luke Guyant) drawl and swagger made it clear that he was “not from ’round here.” Though some students tried to dominate the classroom, such as pompous Harry A. Kagan (Seth Catalano) and creative Elizabeth Ellis (Katy Arnold), Miss Barret successfully kindled the confidence in timid Vivian Paine (Monica Mosimann), and uncertain Jose Rodriguez (Jonathan Rosato).

Humor and tenderness converged in Seton School’s production, reminding everyone to reach out to those who insist on going “up the down staircase.”

by Hope Wentzel of Thomas A. Edison High School

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