Dark, desperate, desolate ‘Go Ask Alice’ exhibits power of student performance/tech skills


Geoffrey MacRae, Emily Lambert, Ashlyn Rock, Annie Begley, and Samantha Farmer (Amy Young)
December 18, 2013

All reviews are written by Cappies student critics and edited by Cappies adult mentors prior to publishing.

Emilia Brennan, a student at Oakton High School , reviews Dominion High School’s ‘Go Ask Alice’ as part of The Cappies Critics and Awards Program.

A perilous trip. A girl named Alice. Sounds like a story we’ve heard before. And it is, but this is not a journey to Wonderland, and our Alice will not resurface. Dominion High School’s Go Ask Alice chronicles the story of a girl we all know: the girl who went a little too far.

Derived from the 1971 novel by Frank Shiraz depicting a teenage girl’s descent into addiction, it is still uncertain whether Go Ask Alice stands as a work of fiction or a genuine diary. No matter the origin, the story recounted in both the novel and stage adaptation is one of distressing reality. Initially capturing the fears of coming of age, Go Ask Alice quickly spirals into a harrowing observation of substance abuse. Presented in distinct, time lapsed scenes, the show’s erratic style parallels the experiences of an individual under the influence.

Ashlyn Rock’s portrayal of Alice was one of incredible dynamics. Arching from an innocent and insecure fifteen year old to a cynical runaway and back again, Rock kept the core of Alice’s character constant even as her life changed radically. Rock showed incredible maturity on stage during scenes where Alice was “tripping”, effectively instilling horror and unease in the audience while maintaining sensitivity to such a serious topic. 

Annie Begley was double cast as Alice’s mother, and also major antagonist, Jan. To successfully portray such polarized characters is an extraordinary testament to Begley’s skills. While impressive in both roles, Begley’s performance as Alice’s mother shone. A sophomore, Begley captured age appropriate mannerisms, and in the scene where Alice was discovered dead, Begley’s reactions were as chilling as they were realistic.

 

Other standout cast members included Chris (Stephanie Whitehouse) who was Alice’s only true friend, but also the influence that sent her deeper into addiction. Whitehouse displayed visible strife in a character who knew she’d taken the wrong path, noting “it’s not the drugs; it’s the people you get mixed up with.”  Alice’s sisters, Tiffany and Alexandria (Samantha Farmer, Emily Lambert) provided innocent and heartbreaking perceptions of Alice’s journey. Successfully tapping into younger ages, both sisters demonstrated character development as their naiveté was shattered by their older sister’s transformation. 

While some cast members struggled to find dimension in their roles, the essence of the story was delivered effectively. The show was uncomfortable and distressing to watch, not because of a poor performance, but rather the prevailing topic at hand. The technical decisions added to the general atmosphere of the show—psychedelic lighting during scenes where characters were on a high initially reflected the fun and excitement. As the highs became scarier, however, the rainbow cyc lights became a juxtaposition to the terrifying situation. During an impromptu black out, cast members remained professional and collected and resumed without disruption.

“If it feels good—do it”. Watching Dominion’s Go Ask Alice did not feel “good”, but perhaps it had to be done anyway. Applying the appropriate gravity to substance abuse is something refreshing in a world so desensitized to the dangers close at hand. This was a play riddled with desperation and desolation. This was a play that magnified the pain of adolescence, and the extreme consequences that can come from trying to simply belong. Just go ask Alice.

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