Editor's note: This article was provided by The Cappies, an educational program in which high school students are trained as theatre critics and have their work published in local news outlets.
By Emilie Knudsen, Oakcrest School
“I am not afraid of life or death or nothingness, but of wasting it like I had never been…” These are the words of a brilliant individual, Charlie Gordon. However, Charlie’s story isn’t a usual one. He started off labeled as “mentally retarded” and was mocked by his co-workers for being stupid, but after a highly experimental operation based off of the same operation performed on a mouse, Algernon, Charlie Gordon’s intelligence skyrockets over several months. However, Algernon slowly loses his own intelligence, and everyone fears the same will happen to Charlie as well.
Originally written as a short story, then a novel by Daniel Keyes, Flowers for Algernon is a touching play presented by the cast and crew of Westfield High School. The novel and short story were written in the 1960’s, which provides the setting for the play. The play is a difficult one, for it deals with issues like the treatment of the mentally disabled, the significance of the individual, and the effects of child abuse.
As the heart and soul of the production, Mitchell Buckley masterfully portrayed Charlie Gordon. Only meticulous research on Buckley’s part could have led to such a stellar performance. With his happy grin and childlike mannerisms, the audience fell in love with Charlie. Buckley fully captured the character of Charlie and his intellectual and emotional arc throughout the show. He brought the audience to tears when depicting Charlie trying to counter his falling intelligence and give as much as he possibly could to the world before losing his ability to do so.
The doctors who performed the operation on Charlie – Professor Nemur, Doctor Strauss, and Burt Seldon – were played with great thought and care by Alex Mann, Brandon Sanchez, and Julian Sanchez. Charlie’s teacher and love interest, Miss Kinnian, was taken on by Madeleine Bloxam, who provided an exceptional performance of a concerned, but emotionally torn lover.
The set brought you back to the 1960s, in an understated way. It was simple, but with great attention to details, and maneuverable, making the many scene changes quick and noiseless. The many costumes fit with the time period and helped relate Charlie’s inner struggle with his appearance. The student-composed music for the show drew the audience into the performance was very effective in setting the mood for the show.
With ease and grace, the students at Westfield High School were able to turn one man’s emotional struggle into a sensational story on stage. May Charlie Gordon’s smile live on in our hearts as a reminder of the value of a human life.