Cappies Review: ‘The Outsiders’ at Georgetown Preparatory School

Daniel Walsh as Ponyboy and Tommy Gambon as Darry with company actors in the rumble scene.  Photo by John Walsh.

Daniel Walsh as Ponyboy and Tommy Gambon as Darry with company actors in the rumble scene. Photo by John Walsh.

Review submitted by Max Johnson of McLean High School.

Call them what you will– losers, punks, delinquents, outcasts– stuck within society’s fringe, Ponyboy Curtis and his fellow greasers can’t seem to escape from these stifling labels. However, when an understanding hand is extended from the exclusive circle of the “Socs,” the opportunity to be seen as person rather than a stereotype emerges. But as Ponyboy knows from the sentimentally significant Robert Frost poem, “Nothing Gold Can Stay.” In a gritty reminder of the often neglected loners, Georgetown Preparatory School brought S.E. Hinton’s literary classic to stage in their production of “The Outsiders.””

Originally written in 1967 as S.E. Hinton’s first and most famous novel, “The Outsiders” was written primarily when she was a junior in high school. As a renowned coming of age novel featured throughout many school curriculums, the plot follows a group of greasers, stratified from the social kids, or the socs, by their socioeconomic statuses, as they deal with violence and broken families against a backdrop of 1960s suburban life. The stage script, adapted by Christopher Sergel, uses soliloquies as narration delivered by Ponyboy to translate the first person prose into a theatrical setting.

Stage design for 'The Outsiders.'  Photo by John Walsh.

Stage design for ‘The Outsiders.’ Photo by John Walsh.

In a magnificent feat of stagecraft, Georgetown Preparatory School’s coarse interpretation of “The Outsiders” was made clear in their stage designs. The backdrop was a shimmering wall of stars, with countless flickering lights that would shift color in accordance to the mood. Towering to the top of the proscenium was a wall of chain link fence, stressing the edgy tone of the play. A literal grass field sprawled across the stage, with dried up leaves scattered across the sod. Jagged white paneling rolled out from the wings, emphasizing the suburban setting, and came together to form a massive church in the second act. The use of lighting evoked an austere mood, clearly indicating dawn from dusk, while also adding artistic elements, such as streaked gobo effects and wistful purple washes. While Georgetown Preparatory School’s use of projections was occasionally distracting, a subdued black and white movie projected across the starry backdrop and a blazing fire upon the church effectively portrayed setting in a captivating manner.

Daniel Walsh, leading the show as the incorruptible narrator Ponyboy Curtis, captured the insecurity and isolation needed to play this understated character. Walsh’s unwavering commitment to his character provided him with the opportunity to give a somewhat reserved performance that climaxed in a moment of absolute, heartbreaking vulnerability. His older brother, Sodapop, was played with a rough, fraternal affection by Steven Balla. Moving with complete fluidity and confidence across the stage, Balla gave a strong performance cementing the familial bonds within the Curtis family. As the group’s dominant member, Colin Larsen portrayed powerful leadership with an overbearing physicality, believably emoting as a cynical and callous burn out. With performance made strong by his characters weaknesses, Matt Schuler exposed Johnny’s insecurities while providing a moving and tragic dramatic arc. As the Soc named Cherry, Kayla Dixon portrayed her self assured character maturity and realism, delivering her lines with an unwavering intensity.

With an emotionally resonant message of acceptance in the face of social injustice, Georgetown Preparatory School brought “The Outsiders” to the theater with innovative technical elements and earnest dramatic performances.

The performance reviewed was from Saturday, 11/10/2012.

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