Theatre Mirror Reviews - "The Rememberer"

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"


entire contents copyright 2001 by Tony Annicone

"The Rememberer"

Tony Annicone

"The Rememberer", by Steven Dietz based on the memoirs of Joyce Simmons Cheeka, an Indian girl forcibly taken from her home and placed in a government training school in 1911 is given a topnotch performance by a 45 plus member cast under the dynamic direction of Nancy Vitulli-Donegan at Cranston High School West. Not only is the show a riveting piece of Americana, it also shows the talent found in a high school presentation. Nancy combines the action of the show to encompass acting, singing and dancing into a polished one. Steve Rougas, one of the students not only composed the Indian mood music he plays it live on flute and trumpet supplying the necessary emotional lilt to the show.. The show flows from scene to scene seamlessly. The Indian setting is dominated by a giant totem pole and the grandfather's canoe while the school is dominated by a giant American flag showing the government's interference in the young Indian's life. The story is told in flashback by the adult Joyce (Haley Craven) and acted out by Jeanine Mendez as the younger Joyce. Nancy has chosen two fabulously talented girls to carry this story to its completeness. Not only do the girls look alike they are talented enough to pull off these huge roles. You empathize with their split from their family and the death of the grandfather is especially poignant because the family tradition of being the rememberer is now Joyce's. Brava, girls on a job well done. Joyce's many relationships during the show are also handled expertly by these young performers.From her comforting of a young Indian boy, Otis played wonderfully by Ryan Jaswell, to her close ties to her grandfather, Yale Wang and grandmother, Gianna Giorgi (showing her the old Indian traditions),to her teasing of her cousin, Henry, Matthew Blackburn (who has a strong and commanding voice and presence) and to her caring reaction to the beaten Indian boy, Darin, Justin Connor (who brings the needed warmth and pathos by telling why he was beaten, he uttered his mother's name.) This scene has a nice juxtaposition to show the hypocrisy of Christianity in the school with the singing of "Onward Christian Soldiers" while poor Darin is beaten by the mean Mullin (Joshua Oakes) the county sheriff. Some other noteworthy portrayals include the misguided school Superintendent, played with a great sense of authority by Katherine Marvel, the strict history and calisthenics teacher, Mr. Conrad played by Michael LaFazia, excellently, the strict unbending sewing teacher who won't let Joyce sew a salmon quilt Miss Brennan played by Victoria Kabakian and the head of the school Dr. Buchanan played sympathetically by Gregory Lake who shows the Indian girl there is kindness in the white man's world, too as does Allison Vallese as Nurse Warner who makes Joyce her assistant during a terrible flu outbreak at the school. Rounding out the rest of this enormous talented cast is Tammy Petropoulos,(also a singer) Heather Varone( dancing very well as the evil pitch woman who kidnaps children), Roberto Gerardi (doing double duty as the kind Longhouse and the mean Twin River),Orlando DiFruscio (also a dancer), Danelle Guglielmetti, Lauren Tundis, Libby Ricardo, Ray Deal, Michael O'Brien, and Ben Henry as the performers. Melissa Aitchison, Samantha Demers, James Dube, Kimberly Dube, Pamela Moore and Cailyn Ryan as the drummers. Domonique Bedbury, Amanda Borders, Melissa Caduto, Kristee Cordeiro, Mia DiRaimo, Danielle Goralnik, Laura McCarthy, Allison Rappoport, and Matt Voccola as the singers. Laura Barlow, Margaret Dunphy, Racheel Kenner, Lauren LaRocca, Deidre McCabe and Rachel Rodi as the dancers who were the waves, the trees and the tribal dancers,too. Have a great run with this splendid show. Kudos to everyone who worked backstage and onstage to make this a show to be proud of.

"The Rememberer" (till 18 March)
CRANSTON HIGH SCHOOL WEST
80 Metropolitan Avenue, CRANSTON, RHODE ISLAND
1(401) 942-6961

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide

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