By: Erin DeCaprio
I have to admit that I was not particularly excited to be heading out to the show at George Washington Middle School last Friday evening. In all fairness, I haven’t seen kids this age perform—probably since I was one of them, and that was much longer ago than I care to admit. Still, I figured my 4th grader would enjoy the show, even if I had to suffer through an hour of stilted 8th grade dialogue. I had no idea that less than two hours later my son and I would both be cheering wildly at the curtain call for what was one of the most enjoyable theater experiences I’ve had in ages.
I knew things were headed in the right direction when playwrights/directors Robert McDonough and Nick Gust welcomed the audience with heartfelt gratitude and a most sincere appreciation for their cast and crew. Their affection and pride were obvious and infectious. From the opening lines of the play, it was clear that this was a unique experience for audience and players alike. McDonough and Gust wrote this play specifically for these students, and the synergy was natural and beautiful. Designing a show for the abilities, interests, and sophistication of that particular cast and crew was a stroke of near-genius that resulted in a play that was funny to the audience largely because it was funny to the actors.
Many comic actors have been credited with the deathbed quip, “Dying is easy; comedy is hard,” but all of these performers made it look like a walk in the park. Their ability to deliver a kind of absurd humor (not unlike the work of Monty Python or Christopher Guest’s ensembles) was a testament to the comedic skills of the performers and the remarkable finesse of the directors. While there was not a single actor on stage who fell short, standouts included Aaron Higgins (my son’s personal favorite in the role of Ahab), Matias Hendi (consistently funny in multiple roles), Matt Floyd (particularly impressive as the show-stopping dancing bear, Darryl), and Anijah Willis (the very definition of sassy in her role of Cassie). The big musical numbers were delivered with an exuberance and generosity of performance unique to this age group. It was truly a celebration of middle school –from pop culture references to flatulence humor to pride in the school—and an absolute delight to behold.
The show was non-stop entertaining from beginning to end, and all of the actors and crew should be recognized for an amazing production. The sets were clever and well managed, the costumes were superb, the sound and light effects were technically flawless, and the script was an ideal vehicle for highlighting each student on stage. Even minor characters came to life with nuance and attention to detail that created a far richer experience than anything I could have expected.
Congratulations to everyone involved in the production of Ghostlight, and thank you for a wonderful evening!