The capable cast of Chantilly High School's recent production of Woody Allen's 1966 farce, "Don't Drink the Water," took a funny script and made it their own.
The show was set in a U.S. embassy in a fictional Iron Curtain country in 1964. When Ambassador Magee (played by Brittany Hince) left for her gubernatorial campaign in the United States, the embassy was placed under the charge of her sweet, lovable, but hopelessly incapable son, Axel Magee (Phillip Reid). He blundered his way into an international diplomatic crisis when three hapless American tourists, the Hollander family, found themselves accused of spying and fled to the embassy.
The plot quickly developed to include picketing, riots and an unexpected love affair between Axel and the Hollanders' daughter, Susan (Sarah Chambers).
Brian McDonald and Meredith Lynch shone as Walter and Marion Hollander, Susan's parents. Their squabbling relationship never became irritating because of an underlying, genuine chemistry between the actors. Particularly noteworthy was Lynch's use of a Newark accent that was consistent throughout the play.
Each member of the supporting cast developed a character that did justice to the zaniness Allen intended.
The show was narrated by a refugee nun, Sister Drobney (Nikki Calonge), who had been hiding at the embassy for six years practicing magic tricks -- which she did with keen comedic timing.
Julius Laroya, as the Cold War agent Krojak, employed a head twitch and eye patch that made him a tough guy with a very human weak spot. Mike Deveney, as the embassy's chef, had amusing facial expressions and physical idiosyncrasies. Soon Ji Kwon, as the visiting Sultan of Bashir, was a hilarious drunk conveying an imposing threat of political disaster.
A most striking component of Chantilly's production was the set, with its attention to detail, down to the Lyndon B. Johnson picture on the embassy wall.
The use of period music, such as the Beatles' "Hard Day's Night" after a surprise accident, effectively blended setting and mood, while the technical efforts of sound and lighting bolstered the show's professionalism.
If you saw the show and didn't want to drink the water, it was only because you were too busy laughing.
Paul VI High School
This just in . . . breaking news from the U.S. Embassy. Chantilly High School has put on yet another hilarious play, this time tackling Woody Allen's Cold War comedy, "Don't Drink the Water."
"Don't Drink the Water" was set "somewhere behind the Iron Curtain" in 1964 and took place entirely inside the embassy. It all began when the Hollander family, vacationing in a communist country, was misconstrued as a group of spies by the chief of secret police, Krojak. They sought refuge in the embassy, where Axel Magee, the screw-up son of the ambassador, was left in charge. From there on, it was a roller coaster ride of unadulterated slapstick humor, complete with a magic-loving nun, a trigger-happy father and a dynamite-throwing mob of protesters.
The glue holding the show together was Phillip Reid, who played the untalented and unlucky Axel Magee. Reid was a constant positive force throughout the entire show, with a never-ending supply of well-timed nervous reactions and a firm grasp on the art of physical comedy reminiscent of George Costanza's antics on TV's "Seinfeld."
Reid was onstage for almost the entire show, always completely in character -- stumbling, bumbling and fumbling from one mishap to the next.
However, his emotions were not limited to nervous hysteria; he was at the center of a developing relationship with Susan Hollander, who was stuck at the embassy with her parents. His acting, whether comedic or romantic, was always believable.
Meredith Lynch, as Mrs. Hollander, was a perfect representation of the overbearing mother and wife. Brian McDonald, as her husband, delivered wildly sarcastic lines that never failed to get a laugh.
An old theater saying goes, "A cast is only as strong as its weakest player," and the smaller supporting and ensemble parts of this show were executed with excellence. Julius Laroya's manic twitching delighted just about everyone, and Alec Black completely embodied the stereotype of the sniveling nerdy assistant.
Technicians Greg Scali and Marley Monk built a breathtaking, two-story set, designed pitch-perfectly to what the script needed.
Westfield High School