The Bad Seed
by Huntington Beach Academy for the Performing Arts
Novelist William March definitely struck archetypal gold when he conceived eight-year-old Rhoda Penmark, a budding sociopath schoolgirl with the internal drive to get what she wants the easy way - by threatening and ultimately killing anyone who stands in her path! Such is the fare currently at the Academy for the Performing Arts, Huntington Beach Union High School, where this still-shocking play is causing audiences to gasp in disbelief. Playing for three days only, November 8th through 10th, the final two performance of "Bad Seed" are today at the 2pm matinee and 7:30pm tonight.
During a school outing near the shore, classmate Claude goes missing and it is soon discovered that he has drowned near a pier. Rhoda's mother, Christine (Sophia Shajari), begins to suspect that Rhoda had something to do with the boy's death, especially after a visit with Miss Fern, the primly head of the most aristocratic school in the state, played by Olivia Pfost. Miss Fern, who has achieved a certain savoir faire within her community, and runs the school and much of the town social events along with her sisters, is the one who first makes Christine aware that something may be off with little Rhoda. When Christine finds Claude's penmanship medal hidden in Rhoda's special hiding place, Christine comes to believe that Rhoda was behind his death as well as some of the other sudden deaths surrounding the family.
Directed by Robert Rotenberry, who is celebrating his 35th year at the award-winning high school, his exceptional success in mentoring the main players shows onstage in their performances. Ms. Michell, who's most responsible for selling the story, dazzles and beguiles the audience with sheer acting power. But even playing pretend, her portrayal of Rhoda is a calculated work of a consummate artist. She knows just when to give the perfect look that sends shivers down your spin.
And she's especially great in her confession scene, when she reveals just how unfeeling she was in the murder of a fellow student. Her cool demeanor breaks into a fit of hysterics as she describes beating him to death with her shoes. It's a rare moment where Rhoda shows emotion, breaking down like the child she is and reminding us that despite being a killer at heart, she really is still a little girl.
Ms. Shajari as Christine, a gentle, gracious good wife and mother whose life is given meaning by the affection she gives and receives, simply blazes with emotional force and you feel her internal pain and distraught.
Col. Penmark (Mohammed Nasereddin), a dashing soldier in love with his wife and completely taken with his daughter Rhoda, is away for much of the events of the story, and never fully grasps the horrors that his little girl will bring about. Monica Breedlove (Tatum Allen), an intelligent verbose widow in the community, is smitten with the Penmarks, and fascinated with Rhoda, showering the child with gifts and fawning over Rhoda’s small graces. She becomes Christine’s sounding board as events take place within the story.
Emery Wages (Kenny Cook) is Monica’s younger brother, robust and friendly, though much quieter and more taciturn in most cases. Monica will point out that she thinks her younger brother is perhaps a closeted homosexual. In the 1950’s South, however, where I grew up, such a thing most likely would not have been spoken of too loudly in public circles.
Leroy, the groundskeeper, is portrayed intriguingly by Carson Taylor. The slow-witted Leroy, who seems to have a sixth sense about things happening around him, feels he is not in his rightful place in life. He views himself as being much more intelligent than the rest of these “rich folks” with their wonderful lives of leisure and luxury. He becomes Rhoda’s foil in the show, but also has a strange admiration for her. The two will butt heads constantly.
Mrs. Daigle (Kaylie Flowers), the grief-stricken mother of Claude Daigle who was drowned at the school picnic, spends most of the show intoxicated, speaking in broken sentences, and accusing the Penmarks, specifically Rhoda, of her son’s death. She is from a slightly lower social class and makes sure everyone is reminded of that. Although both envious and angry with Christine, she also is looking for comfort and acknowledgment from her.
Reginald Tasker (dramatized by Benjamin Edwards) is a friend of the Breedlove’s who writes detective stories and has made himself a minor expert in the history of crime. The stern and weary Richard Bravo (Simon Pike), characterizes the high flying mystery world renown writer who is Christine’s real father. The Messenger is played by Summer Magee.
While the play at APA’s Historical Auditorium and Bell Tower is double-cast with literally all different players except Brody Wyatt as Mr. Daigle on November 9th, there is just as much talent and charisma in that group as the one viewed. For the Friday evening show, Rhoda is played by Destiny Van Warmer. The Penmarks are played by Houston Aniol and Izze Ucar. Monica Breedlove is Kylie Martinson,
Emory Wages is Nathan Morelock and Leroy is portrayed by Sean Kato. Alisha Sweeting is Miss Fern, Benjamin Jara is Reginald Tasker and Sydney Rincon performs as the Radio Announcer. Mrs. Daigle is Carolyn Nguyen, and Ethan Wiersma plays Richard Bravo. The Messenger is Chloe Buettner.
The Assistant Director to Mr. Rotenberry is Kayla Foley, Technical management by Joe Batte and Costumes by Christina Perez and Mia Buck. Makeup and Hair is overseen by Caitlyn Wang, Scenic Designers are Theresa Ngo and Lauren Liang, Sound Design by Savanna Starks, and Lighting is by Caden Higgins.
This show is Highly, Highly Recommended! With only two shows remaining, get your tickets now to APA's "Bad Seed" at http://www.hbapa.org/see
Performed November 8 - 10, 2018
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