Set in a rural Irish village in 1936, "Dancing at Lughnasa" is a 1991 Tony award-winning play about the relationships between five unmarried sisters. When unexpected visitors arrive for the harvest festival of Lughnasa, the sisters' lives are changed forever.
Westfield High will present the play Friday-Saturday, May 3-4, at 8 p.m. and Sunday, May 5, at 2 p.m. in the school theater. Tickets are $5; call 703-488-6430. Irish music and step dancing enhance the drama, told through a boy's eyes.
Sophomore Megan Henry plays Kate, the eldest sister, played by Meryl Streep in the movie version. "She's straight-laced, really into keeping her family together — and very Catholic," said Henry. "She's the strong one, and it upsets her to see her family breaking apart. Things are slipping away from her, and she doesn't like it."
Henry says it's interesting playing "somebody who's no fun" — but she relishes the challenge. Said Henry: "She loves her family so much, and it's nice to see somebody who's that dedicated."
Kevin Pearson, 15, plays Gerry Evans, free-spirited father of Michael, 7. A drifter, he returns to win over his son's mother, Chris, the youngest sister. But he fails because she's afraid he'll just leave her again.
"Like me, he's kinda wild and likes to put on a show and make people laugh," said Pearson. He said it's tough "getting my accent down. All the others actors have Irish accents, but I have a British accent." But he likes playing Gerry because he's "crazy, spontaneous — more into fantasy than reality."
Junior Allison Conte portrays Chris, strong and complex, raising a child on her own. "The only hope she has of having a better life is for Gerry to marry her and live with them," said Conte. "But she knows he'll never buckle down and do [it]. And although she takes care of Michael, she's not affectionate toward him because he reminds her of Gerry." She says it's fun delving "deep down into the motives of the character" and it's challenging showing Chris' emotions.
Diane Rogers, 16, is the second-youngest sister, Rose — sad one moment and happy and lovestruck, the next. "She's interesting to play because she's so multi-dimensional," said Rogers. "She's the essence of a little sister — she's in Kate's face and she's not very smart. And she's childish and innocent, but a grown woman."
Rogers says the audience will enjoy the dancing, music and interesting story: "It's very dramatic and real, with all the emotions family members have toward each other."
Junior Kylene Short plays another sister, Agnes, an introvert. "She's had her heart broken a couple times," she said. "She loved Gerry, too, and feels like Chris stole him from her. She's an old spinster at 35 and sits and knits."
Short likes playing a character so different from herself. Hardest is having to be quiet "because that's so not like me, so I have to dig deep, think how she'd react and show it through facial and body expressions."
Courtney Reed, 17, is the second-oldest sister, Maggie, the joker and the grounded one trying to keep the peace. She's the closest to Kate because she understands her. Reed says it's a stretch playing someone responsible for so many other people — "plus I have to practice the Irish accent a lot."
But she's pleased that Maggie is the "'man' of the family, a really good sister and someone who listens. The play is interesting because it really shows this Irish Catholic family in this time period, the bond between them and how the little boy, Michael, views it all."
Technical director is John Bennett, assisted by Kristen McDermott. And stage manager Jennifer Henderson loves her job because "you're involved with both the technical and the acting side." Although she has to be strict sometimes, it pays off, she said: "When we get a scene down cold, it's pretty awesome."