by Olivia Hunt of Langley High School – Cappies Review
What if a single lie caused your life to unravel before your very eyes? Tackling injustice, dishonesty, and homophobia, Falls Church High School takes on an unimaginable situation with its production of “The Children’s Hour,” delivering raw emotion and intensity.
Set in an all-girls boarding school during the 1930s, the show revolves around its two headmistresses, Martha Dobie and Karen Wright. Right as the women have gained a significant amount of respect and prestige for their school, a vindictive student, Mary Tilford, ruins their reputations and lives with an insidious lie, accusing the two of having a lesbian affair. This dark and widely controversial play was written in 1934 by Lillian Hellman, and made its Broadway debut the same year.
Both Trish Nguyen (Martha Dobie) and Maddie Rumingan (Karen Wright) carried the show as their timely line deliveries and physicality complimented each other, and became especially prominent in the third act with a crescendo of tensions. Although her role was smaller, Grace Molinaro provided considerable attitude and flair to the character of Rosalie, one of many students mean-girl Mary Tilford (Jennifer Vu) manipulates. Her quirky and child-like actions aided her character’s believability overall, and her realistic crying was the cherry on top. Another bright spot was the pompous Lily Mortar (Keely Greene), whose shifts in tone made her character’s lines even more patronizing. She was extremely memorable in her narcissism, particularly when mourning the death of her niece, as she was still somehow able to make such a tragic situation about herself.
Because the scenes in this show are written to flow into the next, and are only confined within each act, it was an impressive feat of the cast to transition so seamlessly and with so few breaks. The lighting throughout the show was flawless, and quick blackouts effectively reflected tense moments, realizations, and plot twists. Also notable were the student-directed sound effects, including a soft pitter-patter of rain, school bells, and gunshot. The most striking technical aspect by far, however, was the set, which boasted a large staircase behind a doorway, illuminated by a light switch actors flicked on and off while onstage.
The cast of “The Children’s Hour” was noteworthy in their dedication to their roles and preserving an ambiance of tension, leaving the audience sufficiently afraid of liars and little girls in plaid skirts.