From the fertile mind of Chantilly High Theater Director Ed Monk, "Cucumber Phil" is one of the most popular, summer children's shows in the school's repertoire. And it's now being reprised for the local community.
Showtimes are Wednesday, July 11, at 3 and 7 p.m., and Thursday, July 12, at 3 p.m., in the school auditorium. Tickets are $5 at the door.
"IT'S THE STORY of a bunch of cucumber farmers who live in Cucumber Valley, and Cucumber Phil is the best farmer," explained Monk. "And one day, a girl named Artichoke Annie moves into the valley."
"Phil likes her right away," he continued. "But when the other farmers discover that she'll grow artichokes instead of cucumbers, they don't want him to be her friend. So he has to choose between her and his other friends."
Monk says the play is "silly and goofy, but with a nice message," plus cool characters including an evil pig, a French chef and some dancing roaches. Said Monk: "It teaches kids how to get along with people who are different."
It's the third time in 12 years that Chantilly's performed this show, and it's always a crowd-pleaser. It features a cast of 14 — including narrators Lindsay Robertson and Theresa Gordon — and the actors have had since the end of school to learn their lines.
"The show was cast, the last week of school, and the kids are doing great," said Monk. "Everyone came in with their lines memorized and their characters down pat. I think children will like the silly characters, and adults will enjoy the jokes in there for them. And everyone will appreciate the message."
Junior Michael Poandl, 16, portrays Cucumber Phil. "I'm very kind and try to help all my friends," he said. "I fall in love with Annie and I get really upset that the other farmers in the valley don't accept her."
LED BY Missoula Slim, the cucumber farmers do a number of not-so-nice things to try to get Annie to leave. At first, Phil stands up for her. "But when confronted, I back down and say I agree with them," said Poandl. "But I stand by her in the end."
This is his first lead in a children's show, and he's really enjoying it. In this capacity, he said, "You get an idea of the whole story, since you're in every scene."
"I really like being part of the show, and I like playing Cucumber Phil because he [has a dilemma to solve]," continued Poandl. "I want to stand up for Annie, but not lose my friends, so I have to make a decision about what's right."
Regarding audience reaction, he said, "As with every Ed Monk show, there are tons of characters the children will love. And this story has a good heart."
Playing Artichoke Annie is senior Nan Haugan, 17. "She's nice and strong-willed and speaks up for what she believes in," said Haugan. "It's really fun. It's nice to be a character who's really outrageous, but not afraid to speak her mind. And I think she's a good, role model for kids to see because she stands up for what she thinks is right."
She said the hardest thing for her is having so many lines. In addition, said Haugan, "Annie's a dynamic character with lots of different emotions to play. [But] she's really likeable and admirable and people will be able to relate to her."
Saying that children's shows are always enjoyable, Haugan said this one is "really funny. Little kids will understand the humor, and their families will like the play, too." She said it's also fun to have something to do over the summer: "You get to keep acting, and it's good to see all your friends."
Senior Christina Day, 17, plays Missoula Slim, a cucumber farmer who thinks she leads everyone. "I don't like people being different," said Day. "And I want Annie to leave because she plants artichokes."
SHE SAID it's tough having lots of lines to memorize and not many rehearsals, but she loves her role. "I get to be angry a lot and really bossy," said Day. 'My character's very loud and I get to use a Southern accent."
As for the show, she said, "Kids will really like it. There are a lot of different actions and it's really funny."
Portraying Buster, the Evil Pig, is senior Ray Diaz, 17. He says his character's a "very angry pig from Eastern Europe, with a Russian/German/French accent. He grew up in mud and never liked it. But even as an adult, he's always in dirt [and isn't happy about it]."
Buster is hired by the cucumber farmers to get Artichoke Annie to run away. So, said Diaz, "I come on and yell a whole lot. It's exciting; I've had a lot of fun getting into the character. I even get to wear a pig costume. It's pink, but very intimidating."
The hardest thing for him, he said, is perfecting Buster's walk. He described it as "kind of a waddle/tough-guy walk." But he's thrilled to play this part.
"In real life, I'm very clean," explained Diaz. "So playing someone who's hired because he's absolutely disgusting is kind of a nice change."
Besides that, he added, "I love children's plays and being able to do things over-the-top and colorful." And he says the audience will have a great time.
"The show has a strong, moral message, and there are lots of colors," said Diaz. "I just saw a couple of the roaches walking around, and they're wearing the most absurd costumes I've ever seen."