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Best written reviews for “Never Swim Alone” performed by Langley High School in McLean, Virginia. Reviewed on April 23, 2021.

Julia Tucker

Westfield High School


As a perfect, golden summer day descends into tragedy at the egotistical hands of Frank and Bill, the waves of repercussions lock the childhood friends into a perpetual, lifelong competition to answer the question--which man is the first man? Under the water lies a deeper mystery: what happened on that fateful day, and how did it all go wrong? Langley High School's captivating production of Never Swim Alone invited listeners to dive deeper into the men's ocean of secrets as the true origins of their rivalry washed ashore.


Acclaimed Canadian playwright Daniel MacIvor wrote the one-act play Never Swim Alone in 1991. The play debuted at The Theatre Centre in Toronto and was soon declared a staple of Canadian theatre. Never Swim Alone follows Frank and Bill in their endless competition to prove one is better than the other, with the winner of each round determined by the mysterious Referee. The flashbacks that punctuate the men's competition reveal the depthless ocean of their guilt-ridden past.


The tiny three-person cast worked together with precision and intent. Despite having no live audience to cheer the company on, the three actors radiated energy and continued to build their vivacity throughout the performance. The extensive work put into rehearsals manifested itself in each meticulous line of dialogue and every minute movement: the actors knew the show as if it were an extension of themselves.


Seniors Cole Sitilides and Leland Hao portrayed friends-turned-enemies Frank and Bill, respectively. The duo's cohesiveness shone in each movement: each actor perfectly echoed the other's mannerisms, from vocal intonations to the gestures and placements of his hands. While the show began lightheartedly, the men gradually darkened their moods to mirror the rising intensity of the story. Despite the evident anger between the characters, Hao and Sitilides also portrayed the deep love and appreciation the men had for one another, which added depth to the complexity of their characters.


Hannah Toronto's performance as the Referee added to the mystery surrounding the murky waters of the show. In her drowning scene, Toronto drew back from the boys as they outpaced her: the resulting image created a tragically beautiful tableau that highlighted the misfortune of the story.


The lighting, designed by Mary Muir and Kira Lentz, subtly switched colors to emphasize drama and help the actors paint a picture of the scene in the absence of a set. Actors could always be heard loud and clear thanks to Teddy Spaner's effective sound design. Ella Smith's pragmatic costume design was both practical and effective--the costumes matched how the script described them and looked tailored and sleek on the actors. All the technical components worked in harmony, courtesy of Alyssa Medici's note-worthy stage management skills.


One man is the first man--but, as the Referee revealed, the second man has a loaded gun. The stage grew dark as Frank and Bill stood facing one other, guns drawn, which begged the question: which man is which? The ambiguous end to Langley High School's mesmerizing production of Never Swim Alone gave rise to its own vast, mysterious ocean of speculations.


Kylee Weimeister

Westfield High School


A ruthless battle of ego between two men, each determined to emerge victorious. Langley High School explores the facades carefully crafted and formulated by individuals and provides insight into the world behind the mask. Never Swim Alone is an absurdly engaging show with tumultuous undertones. It is the ultimate battle of one-upmanship, from superficial qualities to actions with massive repercussions.


Written by Daniel MacIvor, Never Swim Alone was originally a 50-minute piece. Langley High School shortened the piece for competition purposes. The show followed two men intent on outshining one another. Under the supervision of a referee, whose role was portrayed in a lifeguard-like fashion, the two men competed in numerous displays of superiority. In the beginning, the men seemed to be incredibly similar, but as the show progressed, their individual goals and values became apparent. As the energy of the show built, and the competitions intensified, components of all three characters' pasts were revealed, and an incident they were all plagued with emerged.


Cole Sitilides captured the essence of Francis DeLorenzo ("Frank"), through his subtle mannerisms and aggressive undertones. Sitilides developed his storyline and intentions as the show progressed, his actions no longer mirrored that of his competitor, and his tone became less forgiving, more intent and unbreakable. Leland Hao developed his character, William ("Bill") Wade's true values through amplification and subtle distinctions. Hao hastened when speaking of family and that dynamic portion of his life, despite his frustrations growing throughout the performance. Both men fully understood their relationships with one another, and the physical unity, as well as past comradery, was evident.


Hannah Toronto embodied the role of Referee with effortless technique. Toronto remained present throughout the entirety of the show, with subtle nods and other reactive actions. She was decisive, with sharp, quick movements often associated with a referee type role, and was unapologetically committed to telling the story correctly. Toronto's character added to the slow burn of the plot, transforming from a simple referee to a significant member of the two men's past trauma. Toronto handled this transition beautifully, making small connections to this "other" character from the moment she entered the stage.


The technical elements of the show were distinctly minimalistic. The tech team created understandable stage pictures with just chairs and lights. Mary Muir and Kira Lentz should be commended for their lighting expertise, which translated visibly across a recorded video. Teddy Spaner's work on sound was cohesive and aided in the execution of the performance. The costumes, done by Ella Smith, from the seemingly tailored suits to the bathing suit, were deliberate, simple selections that contributed to the understanding of the piece. Stage manager Alyssa Medici ensured the performance ran smoothly, and without error.



Langley High School's production of Never Swim Alone is an ostentatious satire with unexpected gravity. What lies beneath the competitive masks of these men?



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