Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology
Through personal poets, human-eating peaches, and oceans made of milk, it becomes nearly impossible to distinguish dreams vs. reality in Chantilly High School's Wake-Up Call.
Wake-Up Call was written in 2002 by Stephen Gregg, who authored other popular one act plays such as Twitch, Small Actors, and This Is a Test. Gregg has also received the International Thespian Society's Founders Award for his dedication to theatre education. In Wake-Up Call, Jim is a teenager just trying to do his poetry assignment when he's thrown into a loop of nightmares – in one, his mother is spouting nonsense about how the world works. In the other, his girlfriend is hatching a murderous plot against her mother. Jim can't make sense of what's what, and reality only warps further.
Aidan Ramee as Jim did a fantastic job portraying the utter disbelief of someone whose world is being turned on its head. Every time he awoke into a new reality, Ramee's facial expressions went from shocked to exhausted, depicting Jim as overwhelmed and drowning in confusion. Ramee embodied a character that was very genuine and relatable, taking the audience through the rollercoaster of emotions along with him. Emily McGinley played Jim's manic girlfriend, Rochelle. Ramee and McGinley had nice chemistry and were both able to switch their tone and energies on a dime as scenes grew from wholesome to explosive.
Lila York, as Jim's mother, was a joy to watch on stage. York brought captivating energy and fully committed to her character as reality began to shift. Notably, when singing Jim a "lullaby" that sounded more like a whale call, York embraced the weirdness and added a dash of comedy to the mix. Rana Omeish played Theresa, Rochelle's mother. Omeish performed with very strong emotions, particularly when she drank the poison from Rochelle. Her coughs and cries were strikingly intense, pulling the audience in through the screen and drawing empathy for both Teresa and Jim.
The technical aspects of a filmed show are fundamental to audience comprehension and overall experience, and the Chantilly technicians certainly did not disappoint. The cinematography by Sujay Khona was incredibly impressive – Khona shot close ups to highlight facial expressions and moving shots to embody the chaos onstage, all of which made it feel like the audience was immersed inside the story. Khona also edited the show with seamless cuts between shots that did not distract and kept up the fast paced, chaotic feel of the play.
The lighting, also done by Khona, featured bright blue, pink, and orange on the cyclorama, a refreshing spin on the typical white or black background. The eye-catching colors not only differentiated the setting but enforced the dream-like fantasy elements of the show. The set dressing by Kaitlin Molloy was simple but effective. Molloy utilized the same bed as the center of the show but altered details like the nightstand and bed sheets to fit each scene. Although the setting switched multiple times, it was still clear where the characters were.
Overall, Chantilly's cast and crew did a wonderful job capturing the unique excitement and frenzy of a warped reality in Wake-Up Call.
Fairfax High School
A girlfriend-turned-murderer, a mom-turned-fairy godmother, one is chilling and the other fantastical. Yet the line between them blurs as all reality loses its meaning, battered by the incessant tides of this perpetual nightmare. This is Chantilly High School's production of Wake-Up Call by Stephen Gregg,
The play follows Jim, a loyal son and caring boyfriend who finds himself trapped in an endless cycle of dreams. As each successive reality becomes increasingly more warped than the last, Jim gradually progresses from panic to plain exhaustion, a lone victim amidst his mother, partner, and partner's mother, all concerned for his sanity. He rocks back and forth between his girlfriend's ongoing plot of fraud-driven matricide, and a conversation with his mother who is in the process of relinquishing her ties with the mortal plane.
Pure, unapologetic commitment formed the heart of the actors' performances. Lila York let loose an entire whale-mating-call-lullaby, one of many highlights from her wonderfully absurd performance as Jim's mother. Rana Omeish as Theresa Simmons delivered stomach-churning retches, her performance conveying the undeniable shock a mother would face upon being poisoned by her own daughter. Aidan Ramee as Jim, and Emily McGinley as Rochelle, brought excellent chemistry to their performance, which heightened the unbridled chaos that ensued as an innocent relationship somehow escalated into a matter of life or death. The actors never missed a beat, bringing all the energy necessary to carry the audience through the surreal, bewildering story.
Sujay Khona commanded the camera, filming in a variety of angles to highlight moments of intense emotion, while allowing others room to breathe. Kaitlin Molloy's simple yet effective set highlighted the subtle changes made throughout the play, such as different colored blankets that further raised questions as to which setting was truly "real." Kudos to Lila York who was responsible for the whale lullaby that was altogether jarring, bizarre, and hysterical.
Chantilly High School promised to take full advantage of their circumstances to tailor a unique film production. Owning up to the outlandish source material, not a second was spared in delivering a wholly farcical, unusual, and charming experience.