Hayfield Secondary School handles adult issues with aplomb, tech savvy as audience deals with emotions

April 16, 2014

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

Eni Oyeleye, a student at Westfield High School , reviews Hayfield Secondary School’s ‘Marvin’s Room’as part of the Cappies Critics and Awards Program.

Guy Lafleur once said, “When trouble comes, it's your family that supports you." Never was a wiser statement made, as evidenced by Hayfield Secondary School’s masterful production of Marvin’s Room, a play that is a timeless tale of the eternal family bond.

Premiering in 1990 in Chicago with a subsequent off-Broadway run in 1991, Marvin’s Room was one of playwright Scott McPherson’s most personal works. Loosely based on his life, the play chronicles the struggle of Bessie, a loving and selfless woman living at home with a bedridden father and disabled aunt. After Bessie is diagnosed with leukemia, her free spirited sister Lee is put into a position she isn’t used to, one in which she is needed by those around her. The rest of the play follows Bessie and her family’s growth during a time of unimaginable suffering.

The cast faced the daunting task of taking on weighty issues, but they met and exceeded expectations. They handled the serious issues of illness and family strife with considerable maturity. A small cast, they also ran the risk of being overwhelmed by the enormous amount of stage time each character had, but there wasn’t a moment where anyone in the cast appeared flustered.

Leading the show was Katie Wattendorf as Bessie. Obviously not a middle aged woman, Wattendorf was faced with the challenge of developing a physicality and tone that were appropriate to her role. She did so incredibly well, making unique dramatic choices that set her character apart. Her emotional connection to her character was apparent, and her earnest optimism was striking. While many other characters completed a significant emotional arc throughout the show, Bessie's presence was steadfast throughout the show and not much about her character changed. This could have made her boring to watch from an audience’s perspective, but Wattendorf remained enthralling and enjoyable to watch from the opening of the curtain until bows.

Another estimable performance was from Alisha Edwards as Lee, Bessie’s free-thinking and responsibility-averse sister. One of Edwards' greatest attributes was her ability to create a genuine and endearing character that truly captivated the audience with its authenticity. There were moments in which many in the audience forgot that they were sitting in an auditorium watching a play and allowed themselves to become fully invested in the lives of these characters. It was largely because of Edwards' and the other principal character’s performances that the audience was fully able to immerse themselves in the family's lives.

Although there were some issues with the establishment of period, it was not a major impediment on the overall outstanding quality of this production. Clever set design allowed for the show to change setting without much difficulty, and the minimalist costumes were appropriate for the piece.

Overall, exceptional acting skill made for a thoroughly heartwarming night at Hayfield Secondary School’s production of Marvin’s Room, a timeless play that is truly one for the ages.

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