The Neil Simon Festival

By Olivia Canter

Performing two shows this spring, the Varley Players had the audience in stitches with Neil Simon’s comedic and hysterical plays. Set in the 80’s, these drama-filled plays portray a multitude of diverse characters on crazy and unexpected journeys. The plays were performed by two separate casts at BHHS less than a month ago! One captivating cast presented The Odd Couple on Friday, May 18th and Saturday, May 19th, while the other finished off the weekend with the incredible production of Rumors on Saturday afternoon and Sunday evening. With three-hour rehearsals every day for 8 weeks, each cast was extremely prepared for their performances. Each and every one of the actors has an unbelievable devotion to theatre, and it really showed in both of their shows.

Mr. Lopez, the director of Rumors, describes how the students produced a wonderful performance: “In a matter of weeks, these young performers have waded in, eyes wide open and lifted the humor and humanity off the pages.” The actors did a terrific job of emoting the text and telling the story. Although the performers seemed very comfortable on the stage and the shows were flawless, Lopez actually notes that “it was often harder than doing Shakespeare.”

The plot of Rumors features a 10th-anniversary dinner party for two characters, Myra and Charlie. Charlie shoots himself in the ear and Myra flees the house, leaving their dinner guests to an empty house and a mystery to solve. The play reveals the guests’ reactions to what really happened to Charlie and Myra, keeping you at the edge of your seat!

What makes Neil Simon’s plays so amazing? Mr. Lopez explains that “Neil Simon finds the humor in everyday life by crafting completely believable characters and spinning them into unexpected situations.”

The cast of Rumors included Talia Fisher as Chris Gorman, Jake Wild as Ken Gorman, Nicole Tissot as Claire Ganz, Nathaniel Bergman as Lenny Ganz, Grace Byrd as Cookie Cusack, Lucas Amilonti as Ernie Cusack, Juliet Capriglione as Cassie Cooper, Tyler Cermele as Glen Cooper, Evan Okun as Officer Welch, and Alex Dempsey as Officer Pudney.

Now onto The Odd Couple! Mr. Gulick displayed his magnificent directing skills with this play – you would have never believed that it was his first time directing! Gulick explains that with Mr. Lopez’s guidance, he was given the opportunity to “sit in the director’s chair for [his] first full-length production.”

The Odd Couple focuses on a woman named, Florence Unger, whose husband leaves her. Florence tries to commit suicide but instead is taken in by her best friend, Olive Madison. As the girls go on dates with the Spanish couple upstairs, their hilarious performance unfolds before the audience’s eyes. Part of what makes this show so humorous is the contrast between the two characters; Florence is meticulous, neat, and precise, whereas Olive Madison is a messy slob who always arrives fashionably late.

The Odd Couple featured Marleigh Canter as Olive Madison, Sydney Nepo as Florence Unger, Isabella Yallof as Vera, Julia Levy as Sylvie, Jesse Perlmutter as Renee, Hannah Holden as Mickey, Trevor Fehrman as Jesus Costazuela, and Jack Storick as Manolo Costazuela.

Marleigh Canter, a freshman and marvelous lead in The Odd Couple, described her emotions while on the stage and explained that she “[was] nervous for the first five seconds before the show start[ed]” but once she was on stage, she was able to reassure herself that “this is what [they] have been practicing, and [it was] going to be great.” The fabulous and funny Jesse Perlmutter explains, “I loved being a part of a tightly knit theater community. It was such an amazing experience and I hope to do it again next year.”

So, what did the audience think? Freshman Illeana Baquero who attended both productions said, “I thought The Odd Couple was really good because everyone on stage seemed confident while they were performing and it was very funny. I thought Rumors was also funny and it was obvious that everyone practiced a lot. Everything went smoothly and it was extremely fun to watch.”

Congratulations to the cast and crew of The Neil Simon Festival. All in all, the hard work and devotion really shined through the strong performances, and the audience had a blast!