Review: QUEENS at Brookings High School

The One Act by Kristen Doherty

By: Feb. 09, 2023
Review: QUEENS at Brookings High School
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The Brookings High School production of "Queens" by Kristen Doherty, is a cutting from the full length play that was discovered online by one of the directors of the production, Laura Hummel. She contacted the playwright about performing a cutting of Queens for a one play festival and the playwright created a one act presentation for Brookings High School. The play, presented in Brookings at the high school in the week before the festival, was the "world premiere" of the one act cutting by the playwright. You might need to be a theatre nerd (like me), to really feel the gravitas of something like that for a small group of committed and thoughtful artists, such as the cast of QUEENS from Brookings High School.

When Ms. Bergan Abraham ( a co-director of the production) told me about the play she was working on, my first thought was, "Yikes, that sounds like a lot of technical theater to pull off for a one act play festival". And, I know she has some "mad" seamstress skills, but a period piece of literature with the size of cast that these two directors were working with, really seemed like a mountain that I would not have chosen to climb, but Brookings High School did it. They knocked it out of the park (if you're familiar with that baseball adage). They reached a summit of excellence, so impressive and deserving of all the recognition that this production received in the State One Act Festival awards ceremony, and I am delighted to have witnessed it.

From the opening moments of the play, the sound cues, lights and costume choices were all so thoughtfully mapped out. The color palettes and textures of costuming actors, and the blending of light and sound effects were flawless. The stage movement and blocking was smooth, rippling in visual effect and precise. I forgot I was watching a high school one act play and just leaned in to experience the sheer brilliance of the literature of Kristin Doherty, QUEENS, and this acting ensembles' presentation.

The premise of the play is that King Henry The VIII, played with great skill by Asher Bucholz, is being confronted in purgatory for his beastly treatment of all of his wives and (let's not forget) the rightful heir to the throne, his daughter, Queen Elizabeth I. All the queens, the women of the court, and the gossiping ensemble of ladies of court, are swarming him with movement and strong forceful words, and his agony begins when the Fool, played masterfully by Karianne Kessler leads us through each queen's torment by Henry with her seductive and poetic and sometimes cutting expositions. It is Kessler's driving pace that keeps the production moving with fluidity and tension. Max Hoppe, who plays the younger Henry VIII from the dream-like state of the action was a very strong individual character, playing the various sides of Henry as he moved through his life in the dream scenes, with thoughtful and articulated emotion and nuance of behavior.

The stage picture is brought to a more dramatic and impactful pitch by the presence of the imposing "Men of the Court" who appear menacingly on stage as part of the execution entourage for some really intimidating and well done scenes of beheadings.

I would be remiss if I didn't give a huge "shout out" to the technical crew who made some very impactful and dramatic light changes and sound effects, as well as musical overplay cues appear with such skilled precision. You all deserved the standing ovation your production received.

These are the accolades from the State One Act Festival for their dedication, discipline and commitment:

Maggie Dailey - Superior for her design in Costume Design in Technical Theatre

Tech Crew - Superior

Queens Ensemble - Superior

Gossips Ensemble - Superior

Women of the Court - Superior

Karianne Kessler , Max Hoppe, and Asher Bucholz - Outstanding Individual Acting Awards

A Superior Play Award for "Queens" by Brookings High School

directed by Laura Hummel and Julie Bergan Abraham

Bravo! Brookings High School. Bravo!


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