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FOCUS ON 21st CENTURY LEARNING

The Cappies is a writing and awards program that trains high school theatre and journalism students to be expert writers, critical thinkers, and leaders. Student critics vie to be published in local media outlets by attending productions at other schools and writing critical reviews.

THROUGH THE CAPPIES

Theatre and journalism students are trained as critics and attend each others shows. Cappies students discuss and learn about theatre production. Throughout the year, newspapers publish the reviews with the students' bylines. At the end of the year, Cappies student critics decide who among their peer performers and technicians should be recognized for awards at the end of the season with glamour and excitement.

HOW IT ALL WORKS

Each participating school selects a show to be attended, and also forms a team of 3 to 9 student critics and 2 adult volunteers in the fall. Shows may have between 20 and 90 critics in attendance. Critic teams and mentors gather in a private discussion room to perform pre, mid, and post show discussions. The technical and performance aspects of the show are discussed with provided documentation from the host school.

After each show, with adult oversight, the mentors and program director select the best written reviews to be sent to local press outlets. All the reviews are also sent back to the performing school.

At the end of the season, a Tonys-like celebration occurs, where all nominated shows perform a cutting or the critics' choice song, and the final Cappies awards are presented with a trophy by regional critics and peers.

09Nov

Best written reviews for “Clue: On Stage” performed by Riverside High School in Leesburg, Virginia. Reviewed on November 6, 2021.

Miya Livingston

Dominion High School

 

Portraying a murder mystery in dramatic form is a challenge in and of itself, let alone putting on a show more than twenty months since the last time patrons sat down to watch any kind of live performance. With the reputation of a beloved family board game added to the mix, expectations were high for Riverside High School's production of "Clue: On Stage." Yet, to the delight of the vigilant audience, the cast and crew fulfills-- and exceeds-- them all.

 

A comedic play by 21st century playwright Sandy Rustin, "Clue: On Stage" honors its roots among the detective board game "Clue" and its token 1985 movie. Set outside Washington, D.C. circa 1950, the story revolves around an unlikely bunch of party guests-- six socialites who find themselves trapped in the extravagant Boddy Manor and entangled in a high-stakes affair of blackmail, familiar faces, and murder.

 

Riverside's take on the play skillfully juxtaposed an ominous atmosphere with a generous sprinkling of slapstick comedy-- the bridge between these two facets of the show being the element of surprise, constantly manifesting as unexpected gags or startling plot developments, for the characters and the audience alike. The production brought timeless humor to another level, catering perfectly to the audience by referencing current events and aspects of modern high school life. Performers consistently drew attention to the right thing at the right moment-- a dramatic skill that is hardly ever more important than it is in a murder mystery, where every detail could matter-- and all technical difficulties were concealed with professional dexterity.

 

The ensemble cast cogently shared the spotlight throughout the first act, while the more intimate second act allowed ample room for each individual actor to shine independently. Wadsworth (Aaron Eichenlaub), the Boddy Manor butler, conducted the ensemble with dignified effervescence; complementing Wadsworth's Shakespearean soliloquies, the exaggerated mannerisms and vibrant bantering of Mrs. Peacock (Snow Fox) immersed and entertained the audience. Colonel Mustard (Brady Rufo) commanded the stage in every scene with Broadway-level confidence and comic timing-- Rufo's droll embodiment of the stereotypical American hero, whose patriotism and fortitude all but make up for an unfortunate obtuseness. Rufo's nonchalant delivery of memorable one-liners effortlessly evoked uproars of laughter. The all-but-grieving widow Mrs. White (Olivia Miniuk) and promiscuous businesswoman Miss Scarlet (Gabi David) elevated the mood with their own distinct humor and feminine flair.

 

If the board game characters were the beams on which the house was built, the caricatural supporting cast were the embossed wallpapers. Heather Stuart's skill in embodying the excitable and naive French maid Yvette, certainly one of the more difficult characters to portray, was impossible to miss.

 

The show's Noir-esque ambience also owed its success to the designers behind the dollhouse-like set and lighting. The color-coded lighting during each socialite's entrance, atop the iconic, vivid costumes (designed by Natalia Fernandez-Davila Paredes) of characters like Miss Scarlett and Mrs. Peacock, paid homage to the classic board game pieces. The live piano player, Ryan Sweeney, produced the show's music and special effects and was the perfect comedic accessory, occasioning countless unforgettable moments.

 

With their production of "Clue: On Stage", Riverside High School revived and repainted the play's whodunit mystery-- a genre so swiftly approaching desuetude in this day in age-- in a manner so spectacular, facetious, and vibrant that murder was hardly the focal point of the plot at all. Then again, perhaps caution is due for those who did have the privilege of being in the audience-- once word of the show spreads through town, folks will no doubt be dying to see it.


Sloane Helmick

Freedom High School

 

Riverside High School's "Clue: on Stage" left the audience completely confuddled. The classic whodunit mystery told the story of six dinner guests who were in for an ill-fated night of shark fin soup, unexpected visitors, and of course murder. While the invitees were contrasting in lifestyle, personality, and fashion, they were all met with the same unfortunate challenge. Their blackmailer had called them to an illustrious mansion for a twisted game, which pitted the superstitious six against each other as they raced to uncover the who, what, and where of it all.

 

The sound of smooth piano music immediately swept the audience away into the world of finery and the room was electric with anticipation. Ryan Sweeney was stoic and professional throughout as they initiated an epic sequence of harrowing riffs and shocking staccatos. The lighting team led by Ryder Quiggle enshrouded everything in lighting and brought the audience a step closer to the action. Multi-colored gels were tediously cut to exactly fit each light in order to zero in on the iconic themes of each character. Upon stepping into the unsuspecting and candelabra lit labyrinth, each pseudonym-bearing caricature was announced with a bright flash of their signature color. Working without walls, the team isolated their focus to designated locations on stage wherever the subjects of the game popped up, effectively distracting the naked eye from the stealthy RVHS running crew. With such high stakes, there was no room for error, and the running crew flawlessly executed the extraction of "Boddies" all across the stage. Timeless fashion was a real standout in Clue, especially when so much detail was put into just the concept boards. The costumes team, led by Natalia Fernandez-Davila Paredes, was elaborately fabricated and perfectly suited the vessels which breathed, oddly enough, life into them.

 

The players of this game were never dull, in fact they were all extremely bright and shone as brightly as their attire. Immediately, the ultimate American Colonel Mustard played by Brady Rufo was bold, brazen, and boisterously brimming with hilarity. With each loudly announced statement, Rufo reinvented the concept of comedic timing, while militantly managing to maintain the Colonel's serious physicality. Everything was placed exactly according to plan, and though the character was a decorated Colonel, could his clueless air be too innocent of an act? Playing off Rufo, Mrs. Peacock, played by Snow Fox was a ferociously creative character portrayal. Reimagining the stock character, Fox made bold strokes, frenzying the groundwork already laid down with such a classic role, into a whimsical, audacious old woman with no filter. On the other side of the dinner table, Aaron Eichenlaub embodied the role of Wadsworth with such poise and grace, that growing to love the British Butler, unbeknownst to the audience, could never seem remiss. Just your average Joe from the start, Wadsworth became a loveable friend and mentor to the pawns that they were so masterfully misleading.

 

Clue became ever so puzzling as the recognizable tale was once again elegantly played. Watching each player take their turn in the role of murderer became equally chilling and uproarious. With no innocent parties left at the end of the night, each guest was granted a fresh perspective on their own unique situations, revealing that passing judgements is a rather humbling experience for oneself. Riverside High School provided a drop-dead delightful spectacle that left minds digging through each minuscule detail that was all the perfect set up for the double twist ending. Watch out for ominous invitations in your mailbox, Mr. Boddy will be expecting you.

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