Saturday, April 29, 2017

@_Mitchellaneous ‏Does @CwpFairfield & @WritingProject Proud Once Again

Last night, I had the privilege of seeing another Shaun Mitchell production at Central High School in Bridgeport, Connecticut, this time a demanding script written by Jon Robin Baitz called Other Desert Cities.

Mr. Mitchell announced that the show was mature and his high school actors could claim to be the first time production at the secondary level. The well-casted ensemble took on a theatrical story of the Wyatt's, a functionally dysfunctional wealthy family radiating out of the Reagan's 80s and into the transition of the late 20th, early 20th century, society: star-struck, over mediated, and highly tabloid. Holding onto the prestige of wealth and privilege (and all it represents) was at the heart of the tensions they faced.

Casted in Other Desert Cities were remarkable performers who radiated the diversity of Bridgeport Public Schools in a total East Coast / West Coast battle of challenging secrets kept in a Hollywood, political family who kept its  deepest secret hidden from the world. The tension, centered around Christmas Eve when middle child Brooke, played superbly by Aislinn Otero, announced her writer's block was over and she scripted a memoir about her depression after her first successful novel, the suicided of her older brother, and the effect of being raised by Republican parents who were aghast by the rebelliousness of hippie youth in the 60s (including the oldest brother).

The roles were tough and the drama was high - intense, in fact. Trip Wyeth, played by Arnold Setiadi, delivered humorous punches throughout the show as he made light of the lies established by the family to hold the facade in place. Similarly, Silvio Graumann, Tyheem Bonner, established deeper histories for the characters in his role as a recovering addict living off the family's wealth (kudos to him for resisting the temptation of bourbon on the stage). Polly Wyeth, the uptight, controlling and mother-dearest mom was played by Aliyah McAllister, who aggressively performed as a socialite who preferred to keep up appearances and to control the reputation the spent her life creating. Lyman Wyeth, her husband, played by Isaac Vargas, has to be acknowledge for his perfect James Dean coiffure and acknowledged - to his credit - for the theatrical death he offered that once made him famous in the films he starred in.

As I left talking with friends and colleagues, I simply said, "These kids should be proud. There's so much going on in the world, their lives, and their futures, yet here they are perfecting a show for their high school Drama teacher and doing so with all they had to give." It was wonderful.

At the helm, and behind the scenes, however, is teacher Shaun Mitchell himself. His leadership, support, innovation, creativity and passion radiated from the young people he works. They delivered.

Congratulations Cast and Crew! You deserved the standing ovation you received.

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