Saints and Spoiled Children

Two flavors for the price of one – or better yet, free – the Monday night dual theatre classroom performance of Robert Mauro’s Joan, directed by Hannah Seldin ’07, and Pete Williams’s Child Wonder, directed by Olivia Mascheroni ’06, provided a refreshing double-scoop of entertainment to cap off the long weekend. Leading off the night was Joan, a fresh, intimate look into St. Joan of Arc’s last night of life. The play opens with Joan, played by Domenica MacNaughton ’06, in her prison cell with a priest, her confessor, played by Danny Silk ’07. Although set during the 15th century, the script crackled with modern cynicism and wit which spoke directly to the audience. There was an interesting chemistry between the sole two characters. Although the priest is technically in the position of power, it is Joan who holds the authority. Throughout the play, she exhibits grim control of her emotions as she recalls her bittersweet childhood memories to the Father. The priest tries to convince her to “confess,” but she ignores him and eludes his pleas with questions like “what do you think it is like to burn, Father?” Over the course of the show, they become companions of sorts as the priest confesses to Joan his unhappy feelings of insignificance and his disillusionment with priesthood. Later, he indirectly admits that he believes in Joan’s innocence and valor, yet miserably recognizes that his opinion does not matter. Joan in turn confides the bitter unfairness that screams within her at being put to death for defending her “King, country, and God.” Joan never becomes hysterical over her plight, yet she allows her fear to show with her abrupt movements; an interesting and ultimately successful choice by MacNaughton. The script was built upon quick dialogue between the two characters, and MacNaughton did a great job holding the stage with good timing and a convincing execution of long, difficult, ironic speeches. She brought Joan not only to life, but into the 21st century. Silk managed to portray the conflicts within himself and the awkwardness of the situation, while reminding the audience that he was a young man not much older than Joan: a refreshing character choice that helped the two to connect. He was not as comfortable onstage as MacNaughton, his responses a bit unnatural and monotone, yet this woodenness was not all bad as it added to the uncomfortable atmosphere. In his difficult role, Silk displayed great thought, showed through his frequent, furtive glances towards the cell door behind which guards were eavesdropping. The show was flawlessly performed, a great directorial debut for Seldin who had not been involved in theatre before coming to Andover. She said, “I now have so much respect for serious theatre and the larger shows that are put on here. Danny and Domenica were amazing… I was really impressed by how they took initiative and got into character. I really enjoyed it.” Child Wonder presented a rollicking, fun switch from the somber Joan. Depicting the fall from grace of a spoiled child star, the comedic script created a wide range of archetypal characters. Courtney Fiske ‘07 played Eloise, who makes the money for and, in effect, controls her parents, and who is convinced that her “genius” will never fail. Rachel Okun ’04 played Francis, her wishy-washy, vicariously-living-through-her-angel mother. Alex Wolf ’06 played Walter, her father, who is thoroughly fed up with his spoiled monster of a child and sick of his wife’s relentless indulgence. Brianna Zani ’06 played Miss Vincent, the nurse, who possesses no misconceptions about her little terror of a charge. Nathaniel Flagg ’07 affected a British accent to play Roberts, the stoic butler. Finally, rounding off the cast was Liz Finnegan ’06 playing Laverna Carr, a wily reporter. Fiske was especially convincing and played her part down to the very last tantrum. In a show of her absolute lack of respect for her parents, she screams at her father for buying a $200 jacket “without asking her.” She goes on to convince her mother that she is dying from a temperature of 99 because she does not want to do an interview with Carr. Her malady miraculously disappears as Miss Vincent brings out caster oil and spoon. Zani was great as Miss Vincent, displaying a bored toleration of Eloise’s tantrums and Francis’s susceptibility to them. Entering and exiting throughout the performance, Flagg played the shaggy-haired butler with spot-on timing. Finnegan, in short mini skirt and trendy wing-tipped glasses, is the ultimate bloodthirsty reporter. She comes in and gushes to Francis about “our little Angel,” only to wrack Walter for details about the “real little devil.” He is only too happy to oblige, and enacts his revenge by spilling Eloise’s biggest secret: she is not almost 10, but 12 (gasp!) and too old to be a child star. Francis soon receives a terrible call – Eloise’s contract has been terminated. Okun’s conversation on the phone with her manager was the triumph of the performance; you could practically hear him on the other line, as she tried every tactic possible to cajole him into changing his mind. Afterwards she cries to Eloise, “you’re a has-been!” while Walter does a victory dance and finally gets to punish his daughter for the first time in her life. There was a slight slip-up here when Wolf confused his words, but he kept on going and Fiske hid her laughter at his slip-up with sobs. The play ended with Walter giving his daughter the spanking she deserved, a sort of awkward action that dissolved the two out of character as the lights went up. However, no one in the audience minded, and Child Wonder, if a bit rough, was light, fun comedy. Both of the performances, while distinctly different, served up fresh talent and camaraderie. Seconds, please!