By Ji Kim
Elm Staff Writer
Inside the Prince Theatre in downtown Chestertown, I stare at the two most prominent pieces of the stage where most of the action was likely to occur—two radio-style microphones that snugly rest right between the stage and the audience.
For those unfamiliar with the oldie 1946 American Christmas film, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” the story revolves around George Bailey, an honest working man who, upon facing more responsibilities throughout his life rather than the accomplishments of his dreams, has the chance to see how his community would have fared if he had never been born.
Directed by Diane Landskroener and produced by Bill Arrowood, “Live from WVL Radio Theatre, ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’” is Willie Repoley’s stage adaption in which only four actors must scramble together to perform all of the roles of the radio play in order to save the radio station from closing.
As the background Christmas music softens and the lights dim, familiar faces already appear on the stage. Rachel Dilliplane, a first year student, makes her debut at The Garfield Center for Arts. John Lesser, a senior and a well-known actor at both Washington College and The Garfield Center, walks onto the stage as well. Joining these students are Lucia Foster and Carrington Ritchie. Foster, in addition to her role in the play, is also currently teaching Acting I at WC Both Foster and Ritchie come from extensive and impressive theatrical backgrounds, as evident in their performances.
Speaking of which, overall these four actors pulled off an impressive and enjoyable performance. The roles of Lesser and Dilliplane suited them well—with fondness I watched Lesser pull on his dependable typecast as a warm, loving male figure of the 1900s and Dilliplane’s ease in finding her place as a refined but kindhearted woman. What surprised this candid critic, however, were their moments of remarkable voice acting and seeing the genuine fun shining out of their faces and eyes as the show progressed.
In fact, the interactions between all four were spot-on—a notable accomplishment when realizing the difficulty in performing scripted “mess-ups” to come off as delightfully humorous rather than ambiguously awkward.
Likewise, Ritchie and Foster were outstanding. Ritchie gets to show off his vocals and his talent to create distinct, memorable characters with simply his voice and stance. Foster as well exhibits her voice acting talent, especially by involving the entirety of her body while she played various characters ranging from a sultry young woman to a hilarious taxi driver.
Indeed, this show is certainly one for the family—filled with plenty of simple hilarity and interesting action, be it from watching all of the various roles, the actors’ voices, or Dilliplane sloshing a plunger in a bucket of water from the sound effects table. You’re guaranteed to walk out with a smile; the feel-good Christmas spirit rings true in this production where a community, big or small, in a town or the radio station, comes together to help out a friend in need.
“Live from WVL Radio Theatre, ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’” is showing this weekend at the Garfield Center for the Arts at the Prince Theatre on Dec. 2nd and 3rd. Tickets are $15 for adults and $5 for students.