|Cast of What a Do's production of The Outsiders - 2017|
Here's my most recent review but first some thoughts on reviewing.
Mainly, I am just trying to get people to go the theatre. This is my main goal.
When I see a group of young people cast together by a theatre with high production values and artistic sensibilities, I do not really want to say anything critical about their efforts. I just want to encourage people to go see their work.
This is how I see my work. More encourager and less critic.
I made general cast comments because I do not want to criticize an individual young person by name.
However, I did make a critical remarks about Hunter King's acting choices, but them complimented him as well. He is immensely talented and the veteran of many productions, so I figured he could handle the criticism. Also, I followed the criticism with a compliment. His choices in Act One did not work well, especially for how turned inward it made his body work.
I almost NEVER critical of choices made by director Randy Wolf, but here I felt he should have stayed true to the book and shown drinking and smoking more prominently. Obviously, he had wise reasons for not doing so, including disapproval of parents, the age of his cast, and ventilation. Still, I had to mention it. I am a stickler for authenticity.
Still, the show is a good one and should be seen, especially since WAD has a habit of selecting shows that have been taught in schools and so schools should assign the show as homework. See previous productions such as To Kill a Mockingbird, 1984, and Diary of Anne Frank as three prominent examples of oft-taught material.
LINK TO THE NEWSPAPER PUBLICATION:
a production of What A Do Theatre
Attended Date: February 11, 2017
reviewed by Christopher Tower
The What A Do Theatre of Springfield is known for taking chances. For its first show of the 2017 calendar year, it produces an adaptation of S.E. Hinton’s classic young adult novel The Outsiders, which features a cast almost entirely under the age of eighteen.
At times the performances are rough, like wood sculpture not yet completely hewn, partial shavings curl near the surface, but this roughness fits the show and its world of rumbles and street violence. What this cast may lack in polish, it makes up for in raw energy, youthful vigor, and the artful production values of a professional theatre company to back them.
Though frequently banned for its violence and its portrayal of underage drinking and smoking, Hinton’s 1967 novel The Outsiders has been taught in many junior high schools across the country and will be well known to many. The book was adapted as a successful film by Francis Ford Coppola in 1983 starring Rob Lowe, Emilo Estevez, Matt Dillon, and Tom Cruise among others. Christopher Sergel’s stage adaptation was written in 1990.
The protagonist and narrator Ponyboy Curtis (Nick Wheeler) shows promise academically and is good at writing compositions for English (ostensibly because he is the author), but this promise is threatened by the violence of his town as “Greasers” are locked in an unending battle with the “Socials,” which is basically a lower (manual laborers) versus upper class (rich kids) conflict.
The conflict escalates when Johnny (Hunter King), Ponyboy, and Two-bit (Darius Walker) are seen with the presumed girlfriends of two socials Cherry (Averi Beck) and Marcia (Maddy Heywood). A fight erupts, and Johnny kills a social, Bob Sheldon (Jordon Robinson). An older Greaser and ex-con Dallas Winston (Christian Perez) helps Johnny and Ponyboy hide out from the law, but before they can turn themselves in and plead self-defense, Johnny is critically injured saving children trapped in a fire.
The conflict between the two gangs builds to a final rumble that will settle scores once and for all, but not before head social Randy Adderson (Nyle Rosenbaum) tries to make peace. In the end, Ponyboy gets his chance to make something of himself and avoids the juvenile home with support of his drop-out brothers Darry (Mike VanVleet) and Soda Pop (Derek Whitesell), who are his legal guardians.
The final message of this coming of age story is that there is escape from the gang violence of the street and that people are people with names, hopes, and dreams and not just labels of “Greaser” or “Social,” both of which are messages that have always made the book immensely popular in schools across the country often torn asunder by the same kinds of cliques described in the story.
The cast has tremendous energy and performs the show with celerity and passionate verve. But the performances are very rough due to the limited experience of some of the performers. At times, the actors seem to be speaking lines and making gestures in obvious performance rather than being the characters in a natural way that is more fluid than stiff, more polished than stilted.
Though the rough veneer of some performances in a way mirrors the rough and tumble world of the show, there are stand outs. Chief of these is Nick Wheeler, last seen in “Peter and the Starcatcher.” Wheeler is a natural actor and has the perfect look to be Ponyboy. He’s also the glue that bonds this show together in a way that is both essential and beautiful.
After many small roles over the last few years at WAD, Christian Perez pulls out a plum as Dallas Winston. His big body is perfect for the character, and Perez shows talents playing a character much different than those he’s played before.
Hunter King also continues to impress in the roles he plays, though his first act work is at times a bit too overwrought and far too trembly. However, King makes up for this in the second act with some very natural work, showing why he is such a fine and promising actor.
The cast as a whole supports these three main characters well, and though rough at times, the awkward line deliveries and inconsistencies are short-lived and brief in this fast paced show which clocks in at well under two hours.
As always, director Randy Wolf has a keen eye and ear for the mood he wishes to set and has a smart crew of designers and technical folk to bring his vision to life. Music is used especially well in this production, including a choice bit that really sets the tone from Joni Mitchell’s live album “Shadows and Light.” Scrim work of shadows and light presents silhouettes of characters throughout the show, reinforcing this idea of light and dark in another way.
Though perhaps best to avoid the depiction of what has brought this book under fire, the lack of smoking and drinking in the show is probably the wrong choice and does not best serve the overarching message of the realities of “juvenile delinquents,” the term for at-risk-youth in the era that “The Outsiders” was written.
Sets by Samantha Snow are simple but utilitarian and appropriate for the story, featuring two large chain link fence pieces that remind viewers throughout the show of the cage in which the characters find themselves.
What A Do continues to show local audiences it knows what to do with drama. And though as Robert Frost’s poem says (which is quoted in the show) that “nothing gold can stay,” this gold will be staying through two more weeks of performances.
Reflect and connect.
Have someone give you a kiss, and tell you that I love you.
I miss you so very much, Mom.
Talk to you tomorrow, Mom.
- Days ago = 591 days ago
- Bloggery committed by chris tower - 1702.15 - 10:10
NOTE on time: When I post late, I had been posting at 7:10 a.m. because Google is on Pacific Time, and so this is really 10:10 EDT. However, it still shows up on the blog in Pacific time. So, I am going to start posting at 10:10 a.m. Pacific time, intending this to be 10:10 Eastern time. I know this only matters to me, and to you, Mom. But I am not going back and changing all the 7:10 a.m. times. But I will run this note for a while. Mom, you know that I am posting at 10:10 a.m. often because this is the time of your death.