Exceptional Production in The Plains, Virginia: A Review of “The Elephant Man” Performed by Wakefield School
“A cauliflower like substance covered the protrusion on his back and the sack that hung from his chest. His over-sized head eventually crushed his windpipes, collapsing his lungs.” These descriptions horrified a spell-bound audience as Wakefield School performers melted away into darkness. In the eerie silence, an eruption of applause broke out, followed by a standing ovation and a chorus of echoing “Bravos!”
On Thursday evening, April 27, Wakefield School’s Theater once again transformed the Lower Gym into an intimate, powerful relationship between audience and actors. Performing “The Elephant Man” by Bernard Pomerance proved a new challenge for the talented actors and actresses. Without Hollywood makeup or effects, Alexander Mischel, ’18, contorted his entire body into the grotesque, disorder with which Joseph (John) Merrick was afflicted from 1862 – 1890. Mischel drew empathy from every audience member through his portrayal of the beating, mockery, and utter abandonment Merrick experienced during his lifetime. Appealing to his wit and ingenuity, Mischel excellently displayed the intriguing personality of “The Elephant Man” which may have been the cause of surgeon Frederick Treves’ pity and devoted care for Merrick throughout the remainder of his life. Skillfully played by Christopher Wagner, ’18, Treves provided a home for Merrick at the London Hospital and introduced him to decent society, while constantly conflicted with self-denial and self-gain. Wagner invited the audience to consider this inner ethical turmoil Treves experienced.
Splendidly supported by the emotionally-layered character of Mrs. Kendal played by Skylar Tolzien, ’20, complimented by Willem Bonin, ’19, William Brosnan, ’20, Audrey Brown, ‘19, Justine Jones, ’19, Cameron Karns, ’17, Charlie McKee, ’20, Ethan Rosenfeld, ’19, and Michael Wei, ’20, effective lighting design and operation by Wakefield junior, Eloise Colón, accompanied the exquisite costumes patterned by parent volunteer Christine Rosenfeld, and set design by Michael Jones. Attendees are calling it, “Exquisite!” and “A must see!” One spectator noted, “I was spellbound by the performances of these young folks in a very sophisticated play. How their young minds could grasp and make every line and movement seem natural was exceptional.”
Congratulations to director, Ray Karns, on the exceptional performance of his masterfully guided cast. “To those who came to any of the performances, I think you’saw a very thought provoking and enjoyable, albeit sad, performance. I know yousaw a group of young men and women who’ve put their heart and soul into this performance.” states Karns. Two additional performances were Friday, April 28 at 7 p.m. and Saturday, April 29 at 2 p.m.