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Play written and directed by H-B Woodlawn student tackles tough issues

Emily Howell, a student at Westfield High School, reviews H-B Woodlawn Secondary School’s “Remembering Sarah Jane” as part of The Cappies Critics and Awards Program.


The student cast from H-B Woodlawn High School. Top Row, from left: Isaac MacDonald, Bennett Walls, Jonathan Bloom, Lydia Fisher-Lasky, Erin Eby, Jace Casey and Sam Lammie. Middle row: Keeka Grant, Johnny Landers, Addison Janney, Patrick Stearman, Melanie Wiggins and Mick Sloan (sitting). Bottom: Jack Crawford-Brown, Sean Fredericks and Bess Patton. (Photo by Chris Janney)

Dark drama, a black box haunted by a merciless ghost and an unfortunate murder all forced their way into H-B Woodlawn’s production of “Remembering Sarah Jane,” a chilling display of high school theater.

Olivia Myers’s brainchild “Remembering Sarah Jane” is a student written and directed theater production making its debut at H-B Woodlawn Secondary School. The plot captures the life of Jeff, a boy who grew up with an abusive foster father and now, after being placed in a new home, is disturbed by the memories of his sister Sarah Jane’s suicide. In the new town, people’s lives are turned upside down when they become entangled in the flimsy strands of Jeff’s faltering sanity.

Olivia Myers wrote the script. Although at times, the transition from dark drama to light-hearted comedy seemed too quick to give the audience enough time to process the plot or their emotions, the piece was impressive for an emerging writer. And though some scenes seemed forced and contrived, most of Myers’s directorial decisions were well calculated.

Patrick Stearman, playing Jeff, gave a performance that showcased his range as an actor. Stearman exuded intensity with his violent physicality and his vocal tenor, which were both controlled but powerful. He also transitioned flawlessly and plausibly between his current state of mind and that of his younger self. Hope, played by Lydia Fisher-Lasky, added an element of normalcy to the piece. Lasky portrayed a compassionate friend and sister trying to take care of everyone around her especially her mentally challenged brother and her unstable best friend. Her grounded and caring disposition provided a contrast to the overpowering dark nature of the show.

Mick Sloan, playing Hope’s mentally disabled brother, displayed credible innocence and steep emotional fluctuations without being overdramatic. Keeka Grant as Sarah Jane represented an unsettling figment of Jeff’s imagination. Other noteworthy performances included Jack Crawford-Brown as the hilarious Nick, Erin Eby as the eccentric Miriam and Sean Fredericks as the flamboyant Sam. Though the actors stumbled on their lines on numerous occasions, they recovered quickly.

The lighting undoubtedly served as the technical highlight of the show. During the more dramatic scenes, a stark contrast was created between the dim blue light and harsh shadows. And a bright white light bathed those scenes taking place in the more cheerful neighborhood. On several occasions, including the closing, a single pool of light illuminated the actors to create a powerful vignette.

H-B Woodlawn’s original production of “Remembering Sarah Jane” was riveting and emotionally draining. Despite Myers being fairly new at the craft of writing plays, she courageously addressed difficult subject matter providing a tragic depiction of love and loss that will be nearly impossible to forget.

By Emily Howell, Posted by Mario Iván Oña  |  March 10, 2010; 8:13 PM ET
 | Tags: Cappies 2010  
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