Seneca Valley High School showcased many talented performers in a production of theater-in-the-round last weekend in "Dancing at Lughnasa," Brian Friel's story of five sisters living in Ireland in 1936. The show was dedicated to John Horvat, a media services technician at the school who died last month after falling from the auditorium's catwalk as he was setting up lights for a church service.
The story, told through the memory of Michael (Scott Rosenfeld), the son of Chris (Juliette Verroye), and delivered entirely in Irish accents, was emotionally evocative and powerful. The family must wrestle with the ravages of the Industrial Revolution, guided by the sisters' only true connection with romance and hope: a wireless radio.
Intertwined with the dancing and the historical traditions of Ireland, the production showcased not only the great stage chemistry of the actresses playing the sisters, but also made good use of opportunities provided by theater-in-the-round. With such a close audience, it is necessary to have a detailed and well-used set. This requirement was definitely fulfilled -- the set included everything from a thatched roof to real flour in a jar.
Actress Hannah Guerra, playing the child-like and humorous character Rose, was exquisite in her ability to capture her character and captivate the audience. Additionally, Juliette Verroye delivered a stellar performance playing Chris, as she eloquently captured the demeanor and facial expressions of her character. Although male parts were sparse in this play, Scott Rosenfeld (Michael) shined in his ability to be both a grown man narrating his childhood story and a 7-year-old boy interacting with his aunts.
Although the show proved a success in many aspects, slightly extended periods of silence made the lengthy first act lose energy, and wavering accents sometimes distracted from the powerful performances. Overall, the production was appealing and emotional.
Northwest High School
Last weekend, the lights rose on the stage at Seneca Valley High School's "Dancing at Lughnasa," and the audience was transported to a simpler time and place in Ballybeg, Ireland, in 1936.
"Dancing at Lughnasa," by Brian Friel, tells the story of the five Mundy sisters, as told through the memories of the middle sister's illegitimate son, Michael (Scott Rosenfield). Although the story is told from Michael's point of view, he spends the entire production perched above the action, speaking only briefly as his former 7-year-old self or to make rather lengthy narrative interjections. Still, Rosenfeld had an impressive emotional presence in each scene; his facial expressions were always consistent with his character's feelings, a difficult undertaking for a show running nearly 21/2 hours.
The Mundy sisters were a memorable cast of characters. Ranging from the conservative, pious Kate (Amanda Wesley) to the sassy, rebellious Maggie (Laura Moore), the stark differences in personality between each character made for a family dynamic that was both believable and enjoyable to watch.
An obvious favorite of the audience, the heartwarmingly mischievous Rose (a truly entertaining Hannah Guerra) provided comic relief and some of the play's most heartfelt moments.
All the actors adopted an Irish accent, though some were more successful than others. This inconsistency often distracted from the dialogue. This was especially true during long monologues, the principal form of communication for the family's aging uncle, Jack (Michael Tiger).
The simple set was enough for the action in an "in-the-round" presentation that also included a quaint kitchen and a spacious garden where the story of the Mundy family could unfold.
Another thing that set "Lughnasa" apart was its use of movement, specifically dancing. While some dance segments were choreographed, all the dancing in the show had a lighthearted, unstructured quality that communicated the feelings of freedom that the Mundy sisters associated with dancing at the time of Lughnasa, the Irish harvest festival.
Dancing is the unifying theme of the show, from Rose's tempestuous, bloomer-baring romps around the family kitchen to Michael's closing monologue, detailing the story of his mother and aunts, "dancing as if language no longer existed."
Watkins Mill High School