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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.

16Oct

Best written reviews for “The Man Who Came to Dinner” performed by Langley High School in McLean, Virginia. Reviewed on October 14, 2022.

Ella Greene

Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology

 

A broken bone is certainly not at the top of anyone's Christmas list, but in the Stanley household, a fractured leg led to newfound love, unexpected friendship, and the delivery of a sarcophagus.

 

Making its debut almost exactly 83 years ago at the Music Box Theatre in New York City, Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman's The Man Who Came to Dinner ran for 739 performances. It tells the story of a famous author, Sheridan Whiteside, who ends up stuck in the Stanleys' home after breaking his leg on their steps and recounts the chaos that ensues as a result. A story of love, mischief, conflict, and reconciliation, Langley High School's production truly embraced the diverse characters and technical feats presented by the show, keeping the audience laughing through the final curtain.

 

Whiteside's secretary, Maggie Cutler, came to life through Sarah Hilton's decisive reflection of Maggie's professionalism. By walking in a restricted, poised way and using a proper, no-nonsense voice, Hilton gracefully created a character that was consistent and natural. Distinct changes in voice effectively conveyed Maggie's emotions as Whiteside's mischievous actions triggered a rollercoaster ride from love to anger to betrayal. Hilton's knack for bringing novelty to each scene made the audience wait in eager anticipation for her next moment on stage.

 

Scarlett Spano, playing Lorraine Sheldon, used specific vocal inflections and elongated words to establish a feeling of superiority over the ever-likable Maggie. After a sarcophagus was delivered to Whiteside – one of many odd deliveries in the show – Spano perfectly repeated strange, dramatic gestures inside it three times as Banjo (Brady Kastner) and Whiteside attempted and failed repeatedly to shut her inside it. The persuasiveness of Spano's acting was evident by the audience's clapping at Lorraine's eventual capture. 

 

Conor Farah as Sheridan Whiteside perfectly executed Whiteside's deadpan humor through consistent, nonchalant delivery of sarcastic comments towards each member in the Stanley household. In addition, his frequent use of the telephone allowed Farah to show his versatility as an actor – he was able to create engaging scenes using careful timing and varied reactions to each caller. Despite Whiteside being an antagonist in the show, Farah created a dynamic character that was rude but likable, dismissive but sympathetic, and sarcastic but genuine.

 

The technical elements truly let the production shine. Five entrance and exit locations brought attention to all corners of the stage as a result of Killian Korchnak's careful design, creating dynamic scenes despite the entirety of the show taking place in only one room. A perfect amount of clutter and varied patterns on the walls created a house of a well-off but not wealthy family, which contrasted excellently with Whiteside's high expectations and obnoxious needs.

 

Logan Dooley put an enormous amount of thought into every costume, which enhanced the believability of the show and accurately reflected the time period. Dooley's ability to show character development through costume changes in each act was incredible: Maggie's change from a dull and professional outfit to a more colorful palette after falling in love brought another layer to her character, and Alina He's use of authentic purses and gloves from the time period transported the audience to the 1930s.

 

Grounded by a room, a wheelchair, and a Christmas tree, Langley High School's production of The Man Who Came to Dinner delivered a hilarious, energy-filled, and genuine interpretation of the relationship between hosts and their guests.


Katie Wood

Centreville High School

 

"I am suing you for one-hundred-fifty-thousand dollars," Mr. Whiteside exclaimed, officially putting the night in the running for the most unsuccessful dinner party ever. Langley High School's The Man Who Came to Dinner was the epitome of good holiday chaos. Set in the nineteen-thirties in the days leading up to Christmas, the play was written by Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman. Premiering in 1939, it ran for 739 Broadway performances in its debut. It tells the story of Sheridan Whiteside, renowned radio celebrity, and his time in Mesalia, Ohio. After attending dinner at the energetic Stanley home, he sustained an injury by slipping on ice, prompting him to long overstay his welcome. Filled with drop-ins from movie stars, deliveries of cockroaches, and plenty of scheming, it was sure to be an unforgettable holiday season.

 

All three acts started and ended with frenzies in the Stanley house. Tess Jannery-Barney (Mrs. Stanley) and Nico Morandi-Zerpa (Mr. Stanley) showed immense frustration as they gripped to keep their sanity while they endured their unexpected house guest. Jannery-Barney contrasted Morandi-Zerpa's stern and angry demeanor with frantic movements and a cheery tone which kept the house balanced.

 

Conor Farah (Sheridan Whiteside) was impressively dynamic despite being constricted to the bounds of a wheelchair for most of the show. Through dry humor and bashing insults delivered with a smug tone, Farah showcased range as a confident and self-indulgent anti-hero. Complimenting Farah's pompous and unfiltered Whiteside was Sarah Hilton (Maggie Cutler). Hilton's poised physicality and lighthearted banter with Farah revealed a soft spot in the characters as they bounced comedic energy back and forth effortlessly.

 

The most impactful comedy in this play proved that there was power in silence. Playing Mr. Whiteside's personal punching bag, also known as the nurse, was Katie Murchison (Miss Preen). Murchison's frequent entrances and quick-followed exits were embellished with heavy steps and flabbergasted silence. Joana Lima Alves Montenegro (Harriet Stanley) also embraced silence to create comedy, gliding through the home so slowly and intensely that the character could almost have been compared to a ghost sneaking up on Mr. Whiteside.

 

The set (by Killian Korchnak, Victoria Scarpato, Mo Rees, and Talia-Rose Diorio) detailed the Stanley House, adorned with deep red walls with gold patterning. It was a homey and complex structure completed with miscellaneous paintings and holiday knick-knacks that deeply enhanced the show's immersiveness. The evergreen trees placed behind the set's windows were particularly unique as actors could be seen walking up to the Stanley's doorbell. The doorbell and phone were used consistently from the copious amounts of visitors and calls Mr. Whiteside received. The sound team (Andy Powell, Anna Jordan, Luka He, and Nate Lee) executed the rings seamlessly to keep the show's quick pace.

 

A true period piece, the costume team (Logan Dooley, Evey Burnette, Hannah Whalen, and Lorna Evans) reflected both the clean-cut fashion of the 1930s and the thick fabrics of the winter season. Each character was defined by a color palette that often mirrored their personality. For example, starlet Lorraine Sheldon, played by Scarlett Spano, wore sparkly green and black dresses which represented the actresses' greed and drama.

 

Langley High School's The Man Who Came to Dinner was a holiday gift, wrapped in layers of witty comedy and tied with a bow of holiday cheer. A pleasant surprise to be unwrapped.

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