By Nathan Hinds of Holt High School
What happens when one expands his desired intelligence but, at the same time, loses his love and character? The result is the touching stage adaption of Daniel Keyes’s "Flowers for Algernon," performed by Mary Institute St. Louis Country Day School. The stars were aligned for this poignant production, as technical and performance aspects were both triumphant and professional.
"Flowers for Algernon" follows the story of the mentally disabled Charlie Gordon, who has been recommended for experimental surgery to make him intelligent by his teacher, Miss Kinnian. Accompanying Charlie in his road to brilliance is a mouse named Algernon, who has undergone the same procedure.
Charlie’s intelligence increases exponentially, as does the emotional turmoil he experiences with flashbacks to his cruel childhood. As he falls in love with Miss Kinnian, he slowly regresses back to his previous existence, and experiences the traumatic downfall from the status of genius to handicapped, and at the same time loses his relationship and his beloved mouse.
Executing the difficult role of Charlie was Peter Condie, who masterfully displayed the rise and fall of the character from handicapped to brilliant with excellent emotion and passion. Condie’s facial expressions and bold acting choices earned the character appropriate sympathy and understanding. In addition, Katherine Bush’s sincere portrayal of Alice Kinnian brought realism to the story as her sensitivity and compassion suited the character well.
Supporting characters moved the drama along with excellent acting. Dennis Schultz and John Dunagan as Professor Nemur and Dr. Strauss played off each other well, as they depicted two opposite characters: one after money, the other after research.
Andrew Parker’s genuine portrayal of Doctor Burt Selsdon was also well done, as he expressed sincere emotions throughout the play. Adding comic relief was Ankita Kanakadandila as the foreign and funny landlady Mrs. Mooney, who had a consistent accent and character throughout.
Technical elements reciprocated the overwhelming success of the cast. Most remarkably were the tremendous lighting elements, designed by Emily Ruskey and operated by James Meade. The use of a strobe light, plus silhouettes of Charlie’s family members, transported the audience into the mind of the character and helped convey his inner struggles.
Set design by Thomas Hereford was both creative and effective, as the multi-level set with different areas for different scenes helped the action move along swiftly from one location to the next.
While the show was done extremely well and the message was conveyed successfully, several characters rushed lines, and at times lost the meaning. Also, movement backstage was at times audible; however, this is partly due to the small, intimate Black Box setting in which the piece was performed.
While some flaws, as expected, were experienced by MICDS, the students were able to bring to life a dramatic piece and evoke serious emotion from the audience. They successfully conveyed the message of "Flowers for Algernon," which was that all people, whether masterminds or not, have offerings to society, and simply require love, compassion, and a chance.
The Cappies is a nationwide program training high school theater and journalism students as critics. They attend shows at other schools, write reviews and publish in local news outlets.