Westfield High School
Welcome back to Cards of Fate, the sensational game show where one trivia question can alter the course of a person's life! Correct answers yield glamorous prizes--shiny cars, stacks of cash, and storybook endings. Incorrect answers, however… well, who needs happy endings anyways! So grab some popcorn and prepare to watch Annandale High School's dazzling production of The Cards of Fate--and hope that the cards are dealt in your favor!
Ed Monk wrote the one-act play The Cards of Fate. A dark comedy, the play spins the concept of a game show on its head by incorporating punishments to the contestant (and unwilling participants) for answering incorrectly. The stakes are raised with each wrong answer, and the fateful cards begin to toy with health, life, and death.
The filming for the production took place both online and in person. The hybrid format created a cohesive, distinctly "game show" feel through detailed planning and execution--the host and contestant acted on stage while reacting to the online scenes, conveniently displayed on a screen between the actors. The cast's exuberant energy transcended the screens they performed behind and lent itself to the actors forming evident on-stage relationships.
Hunter Duggan and Rigby Eggert took center stage as the puppeteers of fate. Duggan embodied the amoral host, Buffy Youbetcha: he exuded energy that epitomized the bubbly game show host stereotype while also portraying Buffy's indifference to the well-being of others. Eggert represented the everyman as his character Nick Kowslowski--the humble contestant--learned the true implications of the game he played. Both actors reflected the devolution of their characters as they played the game. Duggan's shaky voice depicted Buffy's insecurities about being the host; similarly, Eggert's shock and guilt over the effects Nick's wrong answers had on the livelihood of others revealed Nick's terror of being in control of fate.
Cinnamon--the show's co-host, played by Han Le--kept a steady banter with Buffy throughout the show, which was especially noteworthy because the pair acted through the digital divide. As part of the ensemble of unwilling contestants, Mariam Sesay and Haleluya Worku created strong dynamics in all their vignettes together. Sesay's overly enthusiastic persona as Susan's Mom balanced out Worku's frazzled portrayal of Susan, whom the cards of fate had dealt a bad SAT score. In a separate scene, Sesay was the hysterical mother while Worku portrayed the calm nurse. Otto, played by Nia Collins, emerged at the end of the show: her shocking reveal, with Otto bearing an executioner-style ax, epitomized the play's absurdity.
The student director, Han Le, skillfully cast and directed the ambitious production. Her choice of Zoom backgrounds established each different set and even provided different perspectives on the same setting. However, the actors took their costuming and makeup into their own hands: the virtual ensemble (Miguel Orozco, Imani Brown, Bard Royer) made intelligent choices in their costuming to further distinguish their various characters from one another.
The cards have been dealt… is fate in your favor today? Annandale High School's thrilling production of The Cards of Fate raised questions of morality, destiny, and chance--and left everyone yearning to know what happens after the commercial break.
St. Paul VI Catholic High School
"C'mon down" to Annandale High School's "The Cards of Fate" to win the Daily Double of a comedic yet theme-driven show.
With a challenge presented by in-person and virtual actors, Annandale's students performed playwright Ed Monk's "The Cards of Fate" in which a right or wrong answer from a participant controlled the destiny of people's lives. Show hosts Cinnamon and Buffy Youbetcha initially introduced contestant Nick Kowslowski to the game with conundrums involving prom dates, SAT scores, and graduation mishaps. The plot advanced with the worsening of fates, different phases of one's life, and, ultimately, death while the show hosts' anxiety intensified the show's absurdity.
The actors were the true winners in this game, phoning their virtual friends to make for an unforgettable performance. Exaggerated acting provided juxtaposition for the dark subject matter of bleak fates as Hunter Duggan (in-person Buffy Youbetcha) and Han Le (virtual Cinnamon) bubbled with banter despite the in-person/virtual gap. Aware of his body language and inflection, Duggan displayed incredible range as he transitioned from the exuberant show host to a crumbling version of himself during a commercial break. Rigby Eggert, (in-person Nick Kowslowski) cued the viewer that this was truly a farce of a game show. Nia Collins (in-person Otto) used over-the-top facial expressions to offset the unfortunate fates while holding up the unlucky prize of death in the form of an ax! Multi-cast, the virtual actors, especially Imani Brown, utilized varying body language and vocalization to communicate a differentiation of characters. Noteworthy was the foil-character relationship between Mariam Sesay and Haleluya Worku as the mother-daughter characters displayed a contrast in elation and deflation over an SAT score that transcended Zoom screen limitation.
"Survey says" that the tech job ensured a cohesive performance. Han Le, who also played the spicy Cinnamon, cast and directed the show over Zoom. Additionally, she selected Zoom backgrounds that not only established the setting but gave the illusion that the actors were in the same location. Backgrounds of different rooms for the SAT scene combined to look like a real home. Le, Duggan, and Eggert's stage blocking was not only socially distant but innovative as it allowed for the interaction between in-person characters and a large screen in between them. This ingenuity provided a platform for the virtual students and accentuated the game-show trope of a prize board. Styrofoam heads placed across the apron of the stage hauntingly echoed the theme of the fates that lay in the balance of Otto's ax. Costuming and makeup, done by each individual actor, contributed to the eccentricity of the game show as Duggan's loud, pink outfit and lipstick contrasted Eggert's ordinary clothes that immersed him in the role of the everyman archetype.
Beneath its veneer, the show delivered a moral that one must question the means by which one receives entertainment. The idea of a captive audience was made literal as each member of the game show became entangled not only in others' fates but one's own fickle fate due to arbitrary ratings. In the play's cliffhanger-ending, the audience was left to interpret whether Kowslowski chose to sacrifice his own life for the sake of another's fate; one was then left to question how one would act in the same situation. As one must sort through these difficult choices, one thing is certainly clear: Annandale High School was game for the show. And yes, that is this reporter's final answer.