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Homeschool Teens n Theatre give chemistry to 'Irma'

Edgar McKewen-Moreno, a student at James Madison High School, reviews “My Friend Irma” performed by Homeschool Teens n Theatre as part of The Cappies Critics and Awards Program.

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Homeschool Teens n Theatre's Aerin Tarvin, Anson Rutherford and Chanukah Jane Lilburne. (Photo by Andrea Beschel)

Crazy roommates? Check. Even crazier neighbors? Check. An elephant? Check. All of this delightful insanity helped create the most memorable moments of Homeschool Teens n Theatre's production of "My Friend Irma."

“My Friend Irma” originated as a radio play in 1947, and its popularity quickly grew due to its memorable, over-the-top characters and farcical plots. The quirky comedy was turned into a comic strip, a TV show, a comic book and two films that introduced Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis to the world. Cy Howard, the creator of the original radio play, eventually adapted it for the stage. The theatrical adaptation centered around two best friends and roommates, the logical, methodical, sarcastic Jane and the oblivious and innocent Irma. Irma's personality eventually catches up with her and leads the two friends through a complicated string of events that involves nearly all of their neighbors.

The chemistry between characters made them a cohesive and functioning ensemble. The interaction between Irma, played by Chanukah Jane Lilburne, and all the characters who came in contact with her demonstrated the connection between characters, especially when romance was involved. While issues with diction made some of the dialogue difficult to follow, the entire cast worked together to create a strong ensemble and tell a compelling story.

Lilburne carried the show as Irma, with everything from her cute, funny actions to her lovable character voice. She pulled off an impressive balancing act by never getting too carried away with her character while still keeping the character’s energy level high. Irma’s foil was Lauren Petrey's cynical portrayal of Jane, who ensured Irma never got too out of control. The two made it apparent that they had studied their character thoroughly and knew how to give them substance.

The show also relied heavily on its supporting cast. Anson Rutherford stood out as Don, bringing a realistic nervous energy to his character. Never locking himself into one emotion, he lent a voice of reason to the play in a similar way that Jane did. Zak Gordon portrayed the sleazy yet lovable Al with visible confidence. Although other actors seemed to lack the commitment necessary to bring out the essence of their characters, their interaction with the lead characters made them a critical part of the production.

The lighting was simple but effective, and it did a particularly good job of eliminating blind spots despite the limitations of the performance space. Some sound effects cut off early and abruptly, but they were cued on time.

The actors had to balance farcical elements and archetypes while still making their characters realistic and believable. They accomplish this, and in the end, they did justice to the predecessor of the modern sitcom.


By Edgar McKewen-Moreno, Posted by Mario Iván Oña  |  March 30, 2010; 8:07 AM ET
 | Tags: Cappies 2010  
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