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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.

22Nov

Best written reviews for “Harvey” performed by St. Paul VI Catholic High School in Chantilly, Virginia. Reviewed on November 20, 2021.

Gwen Ihde

Oakton High School

 

"Harvey is a rabbit-a big white rabbit-six feet high-or is it six feet and a half?" The 1940s play, Harvey, written by Mary Chase is a comedic yet heartfelt "tail" that takes the audience on a true "rabbit chase."

 

Harvey revolves around Elwood P. Dowd, played by Ben Philippart, a charming, straight forward, and good-natured man who has a friendship with a not-so-imaginary 6-foot-tall rabbit named Harvey. Elwood's sister, Veta Simmons (Mary Hitchcock), is fed up with Elwood's absurd situation and has him sent to a sanatorium. As the characters interact with Elwood, they realize that Harvey is more real than they previously thought.

 

St. Paul VI High School's production blended humor and heartfelt moments into a truly captivating show. Every transition, scene, entrance, and exit was carefully planned and executed.

 

With a proud strut and an eager grin, Elwood P. Dowd (Ben Philippart) instantly added warmth to every scene he entered. Every interaction Elwood had with Harvey seemed genuine and spontaneous, as if a 6-foot rabbit really was sitting on the sofa. Philippart perfectly embodied Elwood's dopey charm with his passive voice and socially awkward stumbling. Veta Simmons (Mary Hitchcock) complemented her brother's easy-going manner with her anxious fidgeting and seriousness manner.

 

When Elwood was sent to the sanatorium, he met a dynamic group of doctors and nurses. Sarcastic Dr. Sanderson (Jackson Herrera), passionate Nurse Kelly (Katie Elder), and confident Duane Wilson (Aedan McConnell) perfectly balanced each other. The trio's comedic delivery and pauses were spot on, and every scene had the audience bursting into laughter.

 

The combination of lighting, props, and sound allowed the audience to be transported to the 1940s. The lighting, led by Anna Gallagher, was carefully thought out and executed. Simplicity was essential to establish the feeling of a sharp, cold sanatorium. A bright white light made the environment feel sanitary and hostile. Upon Elwood's entrance, however, the sanatorium warmed into a pink light, warming the stage and creating an inviting atmosphere.

 

From the telephones to the paperwork and pens, the props department (led by Ben Philippart) carefully chose props to create the most authentic feel. The attention to detail created a real vintage atmosphere and transformed the show. The sound (led by Madison Hughes) followed the atmosphere from each scene as each song transitioned the audience while simultaneously keeping them in the 1940s.

 

St. Paul VI's performance of Harvey created an authentic atmosphere and balanced comedy with tender moments. Harvey left the audience with laughing mouths and full hearts, as well as the possibility of six-foot rabbits.


Riva Jain

Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology

 

Elwood P. Dowd's best friend, Harvey, is a likable fellow. He's mischievous, gentlemanly, and quite tall. Oh, he also looks like an anthropomorphic rabbit. Meet him and many more in St. Paul VI Catholic High School's production of Harvey.

 

Harvey, written in 1944 by Mary Chase, was a runaway hit, earning the Pulitzer Prize for drama the very next year in addition to being adapted into a 1950 film. The play, set in the midst of the 1940s, follows Elwood P. Dowd and his pooka friend, Harvey, who looks like a large rabbit. The only problem? Nobody else - not even the audience - can see Harvey, resulting in many hijinks.

 

St. Paul VI Catholic High School's production of Harvey was anchored by the subtlety that pervaded every aspect of the play. Lights and sound were understated, with flashy effects forgone for tasteful presentation that let the story breathe. The actors themselves adeptly delivered deadpan humor, displaying the graceful mannerisms of the 1940s while modulating their voices and actions just enough to accentuate the comedy of the play.

 

Each actor brought their own unique energy to the table. Ben Philippart's Elwood P. Dowd was delightful to watch, oozing both charm and eccentricity with his peculiar speech patterns and jaunty disposition. His commitment to the character was unwavering, shining through in how he constantly made room for and reacted to Harvey's presence, even when Harvey was not the focus of the scene. Mary Hitchcock's Veta Simmons was the high-strung, fed-up counterpart to easygoing Dowd. Her shaken portrayal of Veta's distressed breakdown at the beginning of the second act showed how masterfully Hitchcock could retain the mannerisms of her character while still adding new and complex emotions to the role.

 

Katie Elder's Nurse Kelly and Jackson Herrera's Doctor Sanderson delivered hard-hitting chemistry. The two danced around their feelings for each other while still making those feelings apparent through their body language, such as how Doctor Sanderson leaned in to watch Nurse Kelly talk when she wasn't looking. Both actors infused tension into their interactions, getting bolder and bolder before finally culminating with both exploding at each other. Aedan McConnell played Duane Wilson with an infectious energy, stealing the show with wild exuberance. His bold flirting with Camdyn Tyler's Myrtle May had the audience in hysterics. Swaggering across the stage and draping himself dramatically over chairs, McConnell transformed a smaller role into one that was larger than life.

 

Different technical elements tied the play together. The hair and makeup were excellently executed by Mack Myers, Aakash Dharia, and Lauren Wall. Actors who played older roles were bedecked with silver colored hair, which was visible enough to be effective without seeming overdone. Tackling the challenge of representing Harvey's invisible character, the lighting department, composed of Anna Gallagher, Jack Duren, and Hayden Springer, used several clever devices throughout the play. A rose-colored light indicated Harvey's presence in or around the vicinity of a scene, which added a touch of imaginative whimsicality to the play. In addition, the blue spotlight used to explicitly show how Harvey moved across the stage in later scenes of the play truly made real a character that had no physical presence.

 

Infusing an old play with fresh emotion, allure, and wit, St. Paul VI's production of Harvey served as an entertaining joyride with a heartwarming message.

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