This year’s fall play produced by the HHS Drama Club was a historic holiday-themed production called Coney Island Christmas. The show that performed over four days—Nov. 21 to 24— proved to be a comedic, crowd-pleasing experience, wonderful for guests of all ages.
The opening scene introduces the elderly, sassy and outspoken Shirley (Fernando Leyva) and her equally brazen granddaughter Clara (Leah Turkington). The two are seated in the granddaughter’s bedroom as she complains about partaking in her school’s play. Her grandmother offers to tell her about the good old days, back when Grandma Shirley was involved with her school’s performance.
Thus the plot unfolds as Shirley reminisces about her childhood Coney Island home in 1935. She and Clara act as bystanders while watching Shirley’s younger self (Caitlin Petersen) go about her life. Shirley takes the time to introduce her Jewish immigrant parents: her loving father Mr. Abromowitz (Jacob Escala) and snippy mother Mrs. Abromowitz (Emily Rennie). She also speaks about her various classmates, including Shirley’s best friend Evie Slotnick (Kaycie Cutler) and Shirley’s crush, Jackie Sourfield (Colin O’Sullivan).
As the plot progresses, Shirley’s class puts on a Thanksgiving play, which showcases the personalities of all the characters involved. Shirley has her breakthrough role as the Thanksgiving turkey and finds a calling within herself for acting, a dream pursued throughout the rest of the play as Christmas falls upon Coney Island.
Shirley is offered the lead role as Jesus Christ by her drama teacher, Mr. Hilton (Matthew Smith) and her chorus teacher, Ms. Glacé (Alyssa Alvarez). The real conflict begins to arise when Shirley comes home to find that her mother refuses to let her act in the play, as Shirley’s family is Jewish.
Coney Island Christmas’s plot is undoubtedly humorous, yet it portrays moments of sadness which shock the audience from their laughter. The opening-night performance had the crowd howling, a great deal of it attributed to the character, Henry Brown (Jonathan Karram), who played Squanto in Shirley’s Thanksgiving play. However, by the end of the show, viewers were silent as the elderly Shirley describes the various, and not altogether good, fates of her peers.
The devotion of the cast to their characters’ roles accentuated the humor of this semi-comedy, but also allowed the play to express the somberness of reality during the time.
Overall, what made the performance of Coney Island Christmas so spectacular was the aforementioned ability of the actors to portray the emotions of their characters, as well as the wonderful staff, which included director Mrs. Kerri Batche, producer Mr. Michael Batch, and costume/makeup director Ms. Megan Nardone. The HHS drama club’s upcoming spring musical is slated to be Guys and Dolls—much anticipated by the performers and the HHS community alike and is sure to be another hit.