"Roads go ever, ever on"--as does the timeless tale of "The Hobbit" by J.R.R. Tolkien.

In McLean High School's adapted adventure, the actors were held to a confined space in a school building under renovation, but this did not affect their performance at all. They carried the show as if in a professional theater.

The scenery, though sparse, was all that was needed. The duet featuring Rachel Marshall (as Gollum) and Jeremiah Wilson (Bilbo Baggins) had but two pieces of scenery, but they were all that was needed to convey the feeling of a cave in a mountain.

The 13 dwarves were focused and comical, and the three trolls were hilarious and well crafted--defining their characters so as to bring out Tolkien's comedy in fresh ways.

The most outstanding performance, though, was Marshall's. Her understanding and portrayal of Gollum's character--both in voice and movement--were nothing short of superb and did not diminish even as the night drew on.

Supporting Marshall with strong performances were Mari Beard, Ben Lowenkron and Ian Warthin as the trolls. Scott Ferguson as Smaug the dragon was a little metered in his speaking, but his fine dragon's head made up for it.

Offstage, the sound and lighting cues could have been more timely, but overall, this was a fantasy world where people could enjoy feeling young again for a while.

Robert B. Miller Jr.

Hayfield Secondary School

A magical adventure with trolls, goblins, dwarves and a hobbit. What more could you ask for?

McLean's "Hobbit" was special in many ways: The set was simple yet impacting; the hobbit's house--rotating platforms with the house on one side and the forest on the other--looked as though it had been difficult to create.

The lighting was extravagant and, except for a few miscues, well done, evoking the dark feel of the forest while also illuminating the actors' faces.

The costumes--especially those of Bilbo and the Elven Queen--were well detailed and matched to the characters' dispositions. Bilbo wore a brown vest and red overcoat, while the queen was outfitted regally in a green-and-gold gown with a flowered headpiece.

Jeremiah Wilson as Bilbo was enjoyable for adults in the audience to watch, and adored by younger viewers. Wilson used his character for great comical moments, suggesting additional noteworthy performances down the road should he stick to the stage.

Though lacking lines in many cases, the ensemble displayed depth of character and good chemistry.

A special critic's nod to the three trolls (Mari Beard, Ben Lowenkron and Ian Warthin), who made the most of their three minutes of stage time.

The highlight of the show was when the trolls tried to lure the hobbit out to eat him--the success of this scene dependent on each troll relying on the other two. They pulled it off marvelously.

Linda Martin, too, gets a nod for her choreography of the sword fight scene, which had some 20 actors darting this way and that--very impressive for a high school production.

As Gollum, Rachel Marshall demonstrated gymnastic dance talent and a wide-ranging voice that moved from soothingly compassionate to wickedly evil with great effect.

"The Hobbit" was studded with memorable stage pictures. One in particular--the scene in which Thorin (Sean Fitzgerald) was dying as the dwarves surrounded him, a spotlight trained on Thorin--created a magical moment. It was one of many in this enjoyable night out.

Ashley Ann Schultz

Lee High School

STUDENT THEATER REVIEW

During the 1999-2000 school year, the Weekly section will publish occasional reviews of high school theatrical performances in Northern Virginia, written by students from other schools under the guidance of professional mentors.

The reviews are part of the new High School Critics and Awards Program ("Cappies"), which aims to recognize the achievements of young performers, writers, directors, stage crews and critics. The program is co-sponsored by the Capitol Steps comedy troupe and the NVTA (formerly the Northern Virginia Theatre Alliance), a coalition of three dozen artistic production companies from throughout the metropolitan area.

Nearly two dozen high schools in Arlington and Fairfax counties are participating in the program this school year, and each has designated one performance for critical review. In the spring, the program will hand out its first Cappies, the high school equivalent of a Tony award, to honor outstanding local talent in theater, dance and music. For more information about the Cappies, check out their new Web site: www.cappies.com.

Today our student reviewers offer a critique of "The Hobbit," based on the writings of J.R.R. Tolkien. "The Hobbit" was staged recently at McLean High School.

The Weekly is publishing a list of upcoming high school productions. Any area high school--not just those in the Cappies program--may submit a listing by e-mailing us at schoolplays@washpost.com.

Please include the name of the production, the school where it will be performed, the date or dates and a phone number for additional information.

CURTAIN CALLS

TONIGHT THROUGH SATURDAY:

* Disney Holiday Spectacular, South Lakes High, 703-715-4589.

MONDAY and TUESDAY:

* "A Christmas Carol," Chantilly High, 703-222-8100.