CAPPIES: Langley students tackle complexities of COVID world

Hannah Toronto, Claire Stephenson, Cole Sitilides in the Langley High School production of “Hey, Stranger!” 

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If a Zoom call begins and the participants can’t hear each other, did it ever really take place? 

Quarantine has released a hurricane of philosophy in everyone. Stuck in the midst of it all, three actors set out to untangle a few of our thoughts for us.

“Hey, Stranger!” is a 17-minute play by Steph Del Rosso, formatted around a virtual meetup between Eve and Gideon, two people clumsily reunited after a violent breakup and a long time apart. Their dynamic was charged, and the chaos added by the appearance of Eve’s student, Zoe, made the whole experience difficult for Eve, who was looking for some connection to combat the isolation.

The script attempted to address the quagmire of pandemic mentality, dredging up themes from loneliness to sexism with a blunt but truthful hand.

Langley High School’s production handled the hefty script with ease. Hannah Toronto brought a capable, subtle Eve. She embodied her character in every detail, down to the smallest shift of her gaze. Her monologue, in the early part of the play, was delivered with such poignancy that it became personal to the listener as much as it was to Eve.

Each moment was brimming with imagery through which Toronto danced effortlessly, drawing such a vivid portrait of someone longing for a purpose in her emptiness. Although she had less of the dialogue than her counterpart, every quiet, internal moment she had was clear and resolute. She was not the loudest or the boldest, but Toronto glowed with individuality.

Eve’s ex-boyfriend, Gideon, was a painfully recognizable depiction of male superiority. Cole Sitilides played him with all the nonchalance and bravado of a man who is convinced of himself, and yet none of his menace is overdone.

Sitilides took up space: in his environment, in the call, in the conversation, all while he doled out punches towards both Eve and Zoe in a deceptively conversational tone. This, added to his whiplash conversational timing, made for a concise and familiar image. Everyone knows a Gideon.

The youngest and most outspoken of the trio, Claire Stephenson’s Zoe, is a precocious 14-year-old ready to do battle against the world. Zoe explains the English thesis Eve is helping her with in a meaty and intellectually complex speech, which manages to be both pointedly true and thematically flawed.

Stephenson measured it out for the audience’s consumption with a practiced self-assurance that made her ideas seem obvious, balancing a blatant childishness that made her stand out from the adults with the mature, outraged defense of a woman who is tired of justifying herself to men. There was an open reality to Zoe that struck deep.

Not only did Langley’s show feel honest, but it also looked the part, as well. With costumes and set designed by the actors themselves, from Eve’s simple yet elegant low-necked shirt and glittery earrings to the obnoxiously male painting of Gideon’s wife, also painted by Sitilides, the idea abounded that what was being presented was a piece of the actors’ lives.

It is difficult to remember that there are other people filling space in the world, too, and “Hey, Stranger!” opened a little window to remind us that we are not alone. Some people are not what we want them to be, some experiences not as good, but if a tree falls, there is always someone there to hear it.

And one day, we will be out of the forest. 

The Sun Gazette partners with the Critics and Awards Program (CAPPIES) to present student-written reviews of local high school theater productions.

For more on the initiative, see the Web site at www.cappies.com/nca/.

 

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