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Credibility of hope drizzles on Chantilly’s ‘Street’

Julia Katz, a student at McLean High School, reviews Chantilly High School’s “Street Scene” as part of The Cappies Critics and Awards Program.

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Anthony Schnetzler, Amanda Miesner, Maggie Monk, Kelsey Martin, Chris Albrigo, Taylor Jarrell, Kenny Lau and Razan Ahmed from Chantilly High School. (Photo by Ed Monk)

In the fast-paced, whirlwind of modern society, few people stop to think about the concrete blocks below them, the very ground beneath their feet. More than sidewalk, these are squares of history where gossip has been shared, politics argued, fistfights challenged and tragedy dealt. In presenting "Street Scene", a play examining the world from the viewpoint of one's own stoop, Chantilly High School students slowed down their pace of life in an intricately poignant production.

Noted dramatist Elmer Rice penned "Street Scene", initially snubbed by producers before opening on Broadway in 1929. It won a Pulitzer Prize and was later adapted for film and opera. The story takes place entirely on one average New York City street, where four families share both a brownstone and a keen interest about each other’s comings and goings. When it appears one of them, Mrs. Maurrant (Maggie Monk), is having an affair, the scandal spreads throughout the neighborhood before coming to a devastating end.

The complex details Chantilly incorporated into their handiwork lent credence to their production's setting. Little points like curtains on the windows, subtle lighting choices and accent work from the actors made the show seem authentic.

Chris Albrigo thundered across the stage as alcoholic father Mr. Maurrant, bringing a powerful presence to the role. Albrigo's character-infused mannerisms and heavy New York drawl illustrated his abundantly clear vocal choices and violent physicality. Interacting with daughter Rose (Katie Chin), Albrigo skillfully delivered a memorable speech that demonstrated emotional desperation. Chin held her poise throughout her difficult role in the production.

Vulnerable Sam, a bright Jewish man suicidal over unrequited love, was played wonderfully by Miles Drawdy in a standout performance. With quiet intensity and contrasting startling outbursts, Drawdy mastered his role using excellent stage presence and constant expression. Portraying Sam's elderly father Mr. Kaplan was Kenny Lau, who altered his vocal and physical traits so much that he overcame his most obvious challenge: a teenager playing a much older person.

Comic touches were added throughout the play by hilarious Italian immigrant Lippo (Taylor Jarrell), and by drunks Dick (Brian Miller) and Mae (Corey Davis). Chantilly's ensemble worked together notably in well-developed crowd scenes, but many actors had poor diction and ignored a dynamic character arc, a detriment to the show as a whole.

Once the curtain opened to reveal the massive brownstone of Chantilly's set, the audience literally gasped in amazement. Bi-leveled, the set included fine detailing and rightly assisted actors throughout the show by providing key plot information. Versatile lighting work was brilliantly designed, while sound effects and music gave the play ambience. No technical element seemed out of place in the Chantilly’s1920s New York.

Despite heavy drama on any "Street Scene", hope has driven people to walk the streets onward throughout history, wherever their path might lead them. This very hope shined through Chantilly's production, providing excellent entertainment on a rainy night.

By Julia Katz, Posted by Mario Iván Oña  |  December 24, 2009; 12:04 PM ET
 | Tags: Cappies 2009  
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