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The student news site of Brookline High School

The Cypress

The student news site of Brookline High School

The Cypress

Freshman play “The Rehearsal” pokes fun at high school theater

Just as all hope seems lost for the production of “Guys and Dolls,” Barry (Arik Smith) hops into the spotlight to announce he finished AP History with a C+, therefore eligible to rejoin the play. He leads the cast in celebratory song “Sit Down You’re Rockin’ the Boat.”

Between an aggressively uttered “your mom’s a stupid name for a musical,” a bird dance’s professed “metaphor for love” and classic musical number “Luck be a Lady” ending in a fist fight, the 2023 freshman play does not disappoint.

The freshman play is one of the seven annual shows at the high school. Directed by Elena Maimonis, it is open to any incoming freshman wanting to get involved in theater. The shows are usually an older play with a twist, such as 2021’s “Almost Treasure Island,” the following year’s “Oz” and most recently, this year’s “The Rehearsal” showing from Oct. 18 to 21. With a talented cast and impressive technical execution, the performance called upon a slew of theatrical elements to successfully produce another BHS Drama Society hit.

“The Rehearsal” follows a high school theater cast performing their school musical, “Guys and Dolls.” Pandemonium incurs, featuring insecure leads, failing classes and painful rejection–all presented through song, dance and monologues (not respectively). The show works well as an ensemble piece; there is no one conflict or protagonist, but rather a medley of subplots and relationship building. Though specifically advertised as different from the popular “High School Musical,” fans of the beloved teen comedy are sure to see some similarities.

With rehearsals starting mid-September, the cast and crew had roughly one month to learn, stage, tech, memorize and perfect this production. Yet, I would never know of the quick turnaround if I hadn’t been told. So really, it was the ambitious rehearsal plan that helped actualize “The Rehearsal,” the musical-comedy that staged skilled actors playing insecure actors playing musical-comedy characters in a play-within-a-play. Still with me? Great.

Firstly, as a theater kid myself, I appreciated the loving jabs at high school performing arts: actors reveling in ironically self-deprecating lines like “girls break out into song in the bathroom at any point,” “you’re theater kids but I know there’s muscle somewhere” and even the blunt “theater kids are dorks.” While satirized—yes, smaller parts are indeed allowed a script, and no, I wouldn’t necessarily call theater a “dictatorship” as self-proclaimed stage manager/choreographer/dramature Julie (Giulia Taranto) puts it—there is often truth in venerated scripts and frustrated stage managers.

The technical elements of this performance were simply and unequivocally striking. The lighting designed by freshman Michael Stracham especially impressed me, utilizing the full potential of 22 Tappan’s Black Box as moody background colors, bold floodlight washes and sharp spotlight timing allowed creativity and technique to dovetail.

Freshman Anderson Tsai’s character Mike was a highlight in his lovable portrayal of a jock-like high school boy who is only even in “Guys and Dolls” after a school announcement reveals that “half of the play takes place in a night show, where girls dance in skimpy outfits.” His strong background acting and entertaining energy elevated the scenes he appeared in and offered his co-stars a humorous verve to play off of, creating a tongue-in-cheek, irreverent in-show attitude with an out-of-character chemistry that was joyful to watch.

Additionally, freshman Izzy Barkoudah showed off a range of acting ability with Ms. Henderson, a teacher who is both controlling and supportive of her students. In all of her scenes, it was clear to me that Barkoudah had fun with her character, juggling the dramatic caricature and ultimate sincerity of Ms. Henderson in an amusing and heartfelt way.

As per freshman play tradition, the show was of course peppered with Maimonis’s signature dances, and I’d be remiss not to praise the talented singing and dancing involved. Jacob’s (Gus Lubin) break-dancing (which at one point left him mid-flare during a freeze frame) and Angela’s (Maddy Rakov) smooth emotional climax song are examples of the polished implementation of the fun and heartful “Guys and Dolls” numbers integrated with “The Rehearsal” character motivations and relationships.

My one critique of the play would be the structure. Short-and-sweet at 50 minutes, the ending feels cut short. Perhaps it’s because I wanted to see more of the dynamic characters, but some of the character arcs missed the “oomph” I had been looking for. Despite this, the actors make the best of it, and work hard to keep the pacing consistent.

Overall, “The Rehearsal” is a hysterical, goofy production that reflects the joy and frustrations of high school theater, showcases cast versatility and energy and creates a visually excellent spectacle.

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