Oakton High School
Letting go is okay whether it be the hand of a lover, the grief of lost mothers, or the remnants of a family. This is the message of Thomas Jefferson High School's production of Saudade; the one where i miss you, where the ingenious design and elegant delivery weave together seamlessly to create a harmonious blend of past and present in a poignantly enticing show.
Written by Andrew Reid, this recently published show first premiered on the Capital Fringe stage in 2016 as directed by Reid's media partner Madison Landis. Reid also operated as TJ Drama's theatrical director for this production, ensuring his intentions when writing the script were clear. The story, separated into eight parts, catalogues the journey of a family unified by loss, love, and life as told through visual representations of memories.
A captivating couple, Elliot (Olympia Hatzilambrou) and Zachary (Joshua Mutterperl) built off each other's energy with a natural and organic chemistry as their relationship blossomed through awkward parties, rainy dates, and unexpected surprises in peanut butter jars. Hatzilambrou's sanguine disposition and Mutterperl's intuitive, authentic expressions and solid control of dynamics developed empathy and compassion vital to the show.
As Zachary's estranged brother, Charlie (Avi Urbach) brought delightful comic relief with his jocular physicality that balanced the weight of the emotional production. On top of this, Urbach's broad emotional range complemented his jovial spirit with a serious approach in Part 6 entitled Lost in Distance in which he is frozen listening to the voicemails of his deceased loved ones on repeat.
Noah (Evan Howard) provided another notable performance; amid ballgowns, break-ups, and bedtime stories, his strong paternal nature functioned as a prime example of the letting go and moving on for which the show sets a precedent.
The set designers landed a major success with the simple, yet not underwhelming, set which is unexpectedly striking in its honesty. Complete with rotating components and Tetris-like intertwining structures, the multi-purpose backdrops of cliffs, town shoppes, and house walls were fundamental in inducing full immersion into the show, and the reversion to the opening orientation in Part 8 which allowed for a full-circle revelation. Smartly designed positioning moreover paved the subtle indication of transitions without detracting from the performance. Again, emphasizing the ability and skill held by the set design team was their use of a white picket fence at the forefront of the stage, furthering the sense of intimacy and closing the gap between audience and stage.
Props and sound design were additional commendable features, demonstrating clear vision and purpose in every decision. The use of flowers throughout lent cohesiveness to the show, specifically in Part 8. A beautifully diverse array of forget-me-nots and other buds at the graveyard cultivated the message Saudade strives to send that remembering and cherishing life is important and that letting go is okay. Sound was particularly noteworthy in Part 2 in which the contrasting juxtaposition of somber conversation over top of cheery, upbeat party music served as a sobering reminder that the isolation of mourning and grief can be remedied by shared experiences and open arms.
Smooth, comforting, and heart-warming as a fresh jar of peanut butter, Thomas Jefferson High School's production of Saudade; the one where i miss you functioned effortlessly not only as a touching recollection of love-filled memories but also as a celebration of life and family.
HB Woodlawn Secondary Program
How often do we, as humans, have a chance to sit back and reflect on life, relive particularly memorable snapshots in our minds, laugh at the joy, and cry at the pain? In its wonderfully cyclical presentation of life, Thomas Jefferson High School's production of Saudade; the one where i miss you, gives us this very opportunity to be nostalgic.
Written and directed by Andrew Reid, a drama teacher at Thomas Jefferson, Saudade premiered at DC's Capital Fringe Festival in the summer of 2016. After meeting at a party and bonding over a similar experience of loss, Elliot and Zachary fall in love. A simplistic yet poignant script, the play is divided into seven parts, each which recounts an important moment in the relationship of these two principal characters.
Though distance, familial conflict, and other obstacles appear along the way, Elliot and Zach's love remains strong. In her portrayal of the quirky, kind, and peanut-butter-loving Elliot, Olympia Hatzilambrou shines. Every line of hers is delivered with both clarity and a touch of humor, all the while staying true to the realism of the writing. Joshua Mutterperl as Zachary, who wears his heart on his sleeve and speaks his mind, serves as the perfect complement to Hatzilambrou, with an equally powerful performance. These two actors work in tandem to create an engaging, relatable portrait of two young lovebirds.
Another easily enjoyable performance comes from Avi Urbach, who plays Charlie, the estranged brother of Zach. Urbach's impeccable use of timing and physical comedy provides laughs and smiles, even when the plot takes a darker turn.
The passage of time is creatively indicated to the audience through a cast of multiple Elliot's and Zachary's, all who appear in different scenes to show growth throughout the various stages of life. One standout utilization of actors in this way is in "Part 3: Rainy Walks," displaying three landmark moments in Elliot and Zach's romance, all which take place during rainstorms. Each anecdote is represented by a different pair of actors, clearly demonstrating the development of their relationship.
The seamless technical aspects of this production ease any possibility for confusion. Elegant lighting shifts, sharp sound effects, and a gorgeous acoustic soundtrack all lock smoothly into the show and add to the tender emotion of the production. The set, comprised of hexagonal structures that rotate to reveal different settings, is creatively designed and effectively used. Props, everything from a ring hidden in a jar of peanut butter to bright bouquets of flowers, were colorful and symbolic.
Sweet, touching, delicate, and well-thought-out, Reid's Saudade leaves viewers with a feeling comparable to a warm hug, and not a dry eye in the house.