David Schlachter

Flowers for Algernon—Review

My review of the December 15th, 2007 performance of Immaculata High School’s production of “Flowers for Algernon”, for the Cappies.

Rising drastically, only to fall. Intelligence and logic, tripled, emotion left undeveloped. A wholesome, good-natured character, who tragically loses everything he gained. And one difficult script to interpret, performed beautifully in Immaculata High School’s production of, “Flowers for Algernon”.

Based on the 1966 novel by Daniel Keyes, Flowers for Algernon is the story of Charlie Gordon (Cory Mes), a man with a mental disability. Parallel to a mouse named Algernon, he is selected for an experiment which will make him a genius. However, as his intelligence rises, his trusting emotional self, represented by Teenage Charlie (Daniel Feil), is left behind. Matters are complicated by his conflicting romantic interest, Alice Kinnian (Allison Harris), and ambitious doctors Nemur (James Smith) and Strauss (Jordan Cyr). In a tragic twist, Charlie discovers that his newly-found intelligence is fleeting, and soon he will regress to his former level, leading to an urgent search for answers and reconciliation.

Directed by student Kaitlyn Duthie-Kannikkatt, the creative vision and unity of the production was impressive. Use of a silhouette screen showed flashbacks to Charlie’s past effectively, enticing the imagination to supply details. Also, well-designed period costumes subtly established setting and mood when appropriate.

As Charlie Gordon, Cory Mes was entirely believable. Through his voice and personal manner onstage, he reflected Charlie’s humanity and essential goodness. His appropriate timing and pacing were effective particularly when building tension or tenderness, and his interaction with Teenage Charlie (Daniel Feil) was touching and memorable, yet tragic. Mes confidently played Charlie’s constantly developing role with understanding and empathy. Allison Harris, as Miss Kinnian, portrayed her role authentically, especially in displaying caring and interest in Charlie’s well-being. Her appropriately expressive interpretation of Miss Kinnian was convincing, and provided a stable backdrop to Charlie’s rapidly changing character.

James Smith and Jordan Cyr, as doctors Nemur and Strauss, respectively, were powerful characters and a good ensemble. When they were onstage together, they fed off each other’s energy and were very effective, especially when conveying their ambition. Smith, who put on a voice for the entire show, carried it well and modulated it effectively. As the often raging Doctor Nemur, his anger and emotional intensity was well expressed, never overacted, and always in keeping with his character. Cyr, as Doctor Strauss, consistently reacted appropriately to action onstage and used effective body language, even when focus was not directly on his character, to make his role convincing. He never seemed to lose focus and always stayed in his sympathetic character.

Khatrina Baxter, as Mother Gordon, portrayed a viciously caring mother and a broken lady with a melancholy grace. Her difficult role was essential in understanding Charlie, and Baxter did not disappoint. The other members of the Gordon Family were also effective. Daniel Feil, as Teenage Charlie, communicated Charlie’s fundamental goodness with skill in expression and movement, for a severely empathetic and touching performance.

Sound in the production was very complex, as it involved many, many cues. Complex use of voiceovers, effects, and music always seemed natural and never distracted from the performance. The sound crew, Geoff McCaldin and Ted Fadden, handled their tasks admirably. Also, lighting was used to great effect, always complementing other aspects of performance.

Immaculata High School’s production of Flowers for Algernon proved to be a touching and enjoyable performance, featuring impressive focus and skill. Characters were fully developed as appropriate, and minor problems were easily overshadowed by the show’s successes. Despite the tragedy of the plot, Charlie’s fundamental goodness gave the show an uplifting positive light. And won’t somebody please put some flowers on Algernon’s grave?