Just the Beginning of “The Lives of the Great”

This past Sunday there were several debuts in the Theater Classroom. Both Malika Felix ’04 and Sam Woolford ’06 presented their first attempts into the world of directing with “The Lives of Great Waitresses” by Nina Shengold and “Oreos and Nose Rings,” respectively. Both plays provided delightful comedy and some great opportunities for newcomers to acting at Andover. Felix’s production began the evening, setting the bar high. “The Lives of Great Waitresses” is a humorous short play of monologues, told by the under-appreciated waitresses of the world. As the waitresses tell us, waitressing is their profession; “either you got it, or you don’t.” From the picture-perfect opening tableau of the experienced waitresses, played by Shani Small ’05, Cathy Rampell ’03, and Tami Fay ’03, to the succession of monologues, Felix proved to have a well-trained eye and a talent for using the space. As each waitress took her turn in the spotlight, Felix kept the others busy, cleaning the “restaurant,” showing the constant work that their job requires. While keeping all of the actors busy, Felix’s direction never distracted the audience from the focus of the play. An even greater success than her well-envisioned blocking was Felix’s casting decisions. Although a fairly inexperienced cast, the actresses never disappointed, instead surprised, pleased, and forced the audience into fits of laughter. Giving the first monologue of the show, Cathy Rampell took full control over her bawdy character, Kay. A waitress of many years, Kay opens the show, discussing the necessary talents of a waitress. While the monologue itself is written to perfection, it required the talent of an actress of Rampell’s caliber to truly pull it off. Her comic timing and well-executed accent warmly eased the audience into the world of the waitress. While some greater facial expressions could have added to the character, Rampell certainly had the personality to carry this strong role. Seemingly apropos, Tami Fay portrayed the Southern waitress, Tammie Sue. Fay nailed the Southern accent, and her soft nature added to the character’s feminity, as she told of her romances with customers. However, Fay tended to speak too softly, and the audience sometimes lost the lines. The sweet comic side of Tammie Sue came through in Fay’s performance, adding another success for Felix’s debut. New lower Laura Sciuto appeared as the novice waitress, Melissa. The butt of many jokes throughout the play, Melissa found the job difficult and faced the everyday problems that customers do not recognize. Sciuto played Melissa’s innocence to a tee. Her lines were quite clear, and she showed an ability to portray the character in more understated moments. Sciuto proved less adept at the larger moments of the character, but her natural ability was astonishing. The stand out of “The Lives of Great Waitresses” had to be the debut performance of Shani Small in the role of Yetta. Having personally seen the auditions for this production, Small showed an impressive amount of progression from call backs to the final, praise-worthy performance. Small’s diction and line delivery demonstrated great professionalism, but it was in Small’s minor details that Yetta truly came to life. Embodying the elder waitress of the diner, Small truly amazed the audience with her sideways glances, scathing remarks, and ability to blend the lighter side to the character with the brash outward appearance of Yetta. One only hopes that others like Felix will take a chance on this amazing actress. The second play of the evening, “Oreos and Nose Rings,” was an ’06 event. Directed by Sam Woolford, the show starred four promising freshmen girls: Melissa Chiozzi, Kassie Archambeault, Emma Dorsey, and Brianna Tay. The play was set at a high school lunch table, where four girls gossip while trading snacks. Woolford’s choice to keep the actors in stationary positions proved to be his advantage, allowing the actors to focus on creating what could easily be seen as two-dimensional characters. Archambeault portrayed the protagonist of the play, embodying the sweetness of an inquisitive character. While her voice was sometimes too soft, Archambeault had an easy air about her on the stage. Chiozzi antagonized Archambeault’s character throughout. Chiozzi’s teasing amused the audience against Archambeault’s softer dialogue. Dorsey and Tay also proved successful as two inquisitive characters, obviously the younger of the group. The foursome showed great ability in defining their characters and creating the seemingly perfect clique of young friends. While many have tried, few have found success in their first tme working in the theater classroom. Felix’s casting and direction demonstrated natural talent, and hopefully she will consider a show with more challenging dialogue. Also one should expect great things to come from Laura Sciuto and Shani Small. Woolford’s show also proved successful, but a more exciting piece would prove a nice challenge for this talented young man.