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Unique friendship honored in W. T. Woodson’s 'David and Lisa'

Zoe Tippl, a student at Westfield High School, reviews “David and Lisa” performed by W. T. Woodson High School as part of The Cappies Critics and Awards Program.

What makes a friend? Is it their personality? Their popularity? Their trustworthiness? The qualities that define a friendship are as innumerable as the number of friendships in the world. Their dimensions cannot be simplified into a generic list of characteristics, for each friendship is as unique as the individuals who create it.

Take for instance the friendship of David and Lisa.

Based on the novel by Theodore Isaac Rubin, the screenplay by Eleanor Perry and the film by Frank Perry, the play "David and Lisa" tells of the relationship between the title characters during their stay at the Berkeley School, an institution for mentally and psychologically challenged children. David, whose obsessive-compulsive disorder leaves him fearful of being touched, and Lisa, whose split personalities leave her either silent or only able to talk in rhyme, are drawn closer to each other through the course of the play because of their desire to be accepted and understood. In a recent staging of this production, W.T. Woodson High School stood true to the innocence and hope of David and Lisa as they redefined the common perceptions of what constitutes a friendship.

As David Clemens, Loomis skillfully portrayed David’s transition from cold, aloofness during the first act to his increased receptiveness and geniality as he opened up during the second act. Acting opposite Loomis, Erica Messenger, as Lisa, was faced with the difficult challenge of playing a character who communicates primarily through rhyme. Her facial expressions and animated body language allowed her to express far more of her character’s inner mantra than words could have done.

Even though their individual performances of Loomis and Messenger memorable, the relationship that developed between the two was also especially noteworthy. The growth in chemistry between Loomis and Messenger mirrored the growth in chemistry between their characters, David and Lisa, as they became more trusting of one another. This trust reached a heartwarming climax in the final scene of the play when both characters overcame their own fears for the sake of the other.

As Dr. Alan Swinford, the leading psychiatrist at the Berkeley School, Isaac Rank added an air of professionalism to the production. Rank’s calm demeanor and even vocal tones allowed him to depict Dr. Swinford as the necessary voice of reason that balanced the constantly changing emotions of the school’s patients. Another standout performance was that of Emily Adler who portrayed David’s mother, Mrs. Clemens. Adler’s distinct emotional transitions and realistic relationship with her son allowed her to cross the boundary between being just another nagging mother and being a woman that is emotionally dependent upon her child.

One of the most impressive aspects of the production was the proficiency and adeptness of its stage crew (led by Jessica MacDonald, Jennifer Grape, Jenna Pratz, and Nora Hayman) as they quickly and cleanly executed the show’s numerous scene changes. Although there were some minor technical glitches, the play’s sound (as executed by David Willmore and Kevin Murphy) added to the overall production allowing each actor to be clearly heard and understood.

Big or small, old or young, sane or insane, friends will be there no matter what. This weekend, W.T. Woodson High School players taught audiences that the most powerful of friendships come from the most unlikely of sources in their rendition of David and Lisa.

By Zoe Tippl, Posted by Mario Iván Oña  |  May 9, 2010; 9:37 PM ET
 | Tags: Cappies 2010  
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