With the absence of a formal Studio 115 season in the student run section of the Department of Theatre and Dance, UMW has been left hungry for any appetizing theatre.
Luckily, the newest play on the scene, “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” is good enough to be a whole feast.
One of the most defining aspects of the play is the set, modeled after the fictional Mohopac Huskies gymnasium.
It’s immersive and simple, yet still incredibly detailed. There are brightly colored balloons, bleachers, a hardwood floor, and blue and yellow paw prints on the house walls.
Especially with its stark microphone center stage, the set perfectly captures an actual bee.
The opening number had the audience in an uproar of laughter with William Finn’s creative lyrics and the cast’s beautiful harmonies. The audience’s claps even overlapped the last few notes.
Senior Elizabeth Reed’s voice was naturally smooth and added depth to her character, Rona Lisa Peretti. She lit up the stage with her performance, even in a scene where she doubled as the mother of Olive Ostrovosky (sophomore Bess Ten Eyck) in one of the spellers’ flashbacks.
All nine actors in the cast had plenty of stage time and it never felt like one character was the star of the show. Each actor had plenty of chances to shine.
Sophomore Anissa Felix gave a wonderful androgynous tone to her character, Logan Schwartzandgrubenierre. She did a great, consistent job with her character’s lisp, even through musical numbers.
There were some flat notes in the numbers, like “Prayer of the Comfort Counselor” and “The I Love You Song,” but the negative aspects of the show never lasted long.
An aspect that could have been clarified further was Ten Eyck’s costume. We’re told that the spellers are perhaps between the ages of 11 and 13 years old, but the pink gingham onesie paired with pink Chuck Taylor’s for Olive Ostrovsky placed her more in the 3-year-old category.
However, these details were made up for especially in the crowd-pleasing song “I’m Not That Smart” by senior Fritz Reuter as Leaf Coneybear. The lyrics were heartwarming and imaginative, really complimenting Reuter’s carefree acting as he played with a puppet––it’s easy to imagine him truly losing himself in the child-like activity.
But the real show-stealing performance was that of Jon K. Reynolds as Vice Principal Douglas Panch. His tone and rhythm of the lines were hysterical and his “catterjunes” moment left the audience cracking up.
Every detail was perfect, even down to the lighting. Designer and professor David E. Hunt, Jr. made great use of blue lights to signify the flashbacks of the spellers.
This show was delightfully surprising and truly comedic around every turn. The actors worked and sang in pleasant harmony and it would behoove any student or member of the community to school yourself these next two weekends.
“The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” plays in Klein Theatre until April 17, on Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. and on Sundays at 2 p.m. Tickets are $8 with UMW ID, $20 standard admission, $16 students.
[Photo credit: Marie Sicola/Bullet]