Well-deserved standing ovation celebrates Westfield High School’s complex “Flowers for Algernon”


Pictured: Mirchell Buckley and Madeline Bloxam (Charlie Gunn)
February 27, 2013

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

Sophy Meudt, a student at Heritage High School , reviews “Flowers for Algernon” performed by Westfield High School as part of The Cappies Critics and Awards Program.

If you were offered a chance to become the human guinea pig of a revolutionary experiment that eliminates your mental handicap and turns you into a super genius, would you take it? Naive to the potential side effects, Charlie Gordon does, and stumbles blindly into a confusing maze of lab coats, vast knowledge, foreign emotions and more--all revealed in Westfield High School’s production of Flowers for Algernon.

Faced with a daunting script, thick with emotionally mature themes, this cast took on the challenge with great ambition and executed it in an aesthetically appealing way. Charlie is poked and prodded into the world of science due to his mental retardation. He undergoes an operation to improve his IQ, previously performed only once before on a white lab mouse named Algernon. Charlie rapidly surpasses societies’ definition of normal intelligence. He begins to feel as if he himself is the one in a cage, questioning the commonly held belief that ignorance is truly bliss.

Flowers for Algernon was originally a science fiction themed short story by Daniel Keyes. It then developed into a well known novel. Due to controversial material in the book, it was removed from many school libraries. Eventually it was adapted for the stage in 1969 by David Rogers and later became a musical, making its debut on the West End.

In Westfield High’s production, Mitchell Buckley takes the spotlight with taste and accuracy in the leading role of Charlie Gordon. There are obvious difficulties that face any actor attempting to portray a character with a disability. Buckley handled these with grace and effective comedic timing. The extreme dynamics of his character’s variable mental capacities were no challenge for this actor. He expressed the mental and emotional growth and decline with specific characterizations and attention to detail. Buckley made Charlie so real, he captivated the audience. The stage chemistry with female lead Alice Kinnian, played by Madeleine Bloxman, consistently delivered the desired authenticity.

Typically, teenage actors in high school find it extremely difficult to realistically portray the full mannerisms of a complex middle aged character, but Alex Mann as Professor Nemur did just this. Lab coat and all, Mann was the convincingly graying, middle aged Professor. His characterizations refused to let scenes lag and brought energy to the script. In addition, Mann composed original piano music, effectively integrated into various scenes, influencing mood and transitions.

This show also had a talented technical team. The stage crew was quick and quiet. The lighting crew used creative washes and shadows to further the intensity of the story. Set design by Brandon Sanchez and Olivia Witt was appropriately simple yet visually striking and included a life size mouse’s maze that was perfectly symbolic.

Westfield High School took on an extremely ambitious show and should be proud of their hard work and all-together impressive production. It left the audience standing in ovation at curtain call.

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