High Grades for Hazelwood Junior High

14671148_10154615991129878_1326457754816564935_nLoveless Murder at Hazelwood High

Review by Joseph Leone

In 1991, six girls converge in the halls of a seemingly uneventful day at this middle America high school in Indiana. What the audience doesn’t realize, until much later in the play, the childhoods of these young women, ages 12 to 15, would play an integral part in the revenge on a 12 year old student Shanda (Eve Kummer Landau).

The events begin innocently enough when Shanda is lured into a playful yet intimate relationship by the boyish Amanda (Bear Spiegel); moreover, this gradually catches the attention of Melinda Loveless,, Amanda’s lesbian lover who possesses Charles Manson powers of control over the rest of the group. Her early rage begins as a jealous complaint lamenting the loss of Amanda to the younger, more charming Shanda.  Seemingly in the midst of finding her sexuality she encounters the charming Amanda; however, the magnetism between them is a palpable chemistry. This is due to the outstanding character development on the part of Landau and Spiegel. Landau plays with such engaging childlike innocence and vulnerability the audience realizes the tragic direction they are taking with the growing jealously of Melinda Loveless looming in the background. Sofie Zamchick, who plays Hope, another befitting moniker, has a tormenting conscience about the evening and the group’s knife wielding threats the group dish out  as they cruise the streets in their car. The aura of evil begins to pervade the evening when Toni (Marielle Young), who seems to personify the force of evil, learned from her mother in childhood, takes to blood drinking from the calf of Loveless, Amanda’s dominant lover. The group’s childish laughter heightens to a frenzied, unleashed mood permeating all logic, spurning rational behavior.   Young is terrific in her trancelike moods during the long evening, as if becoming the devil incarnate, hoping to color the night with evil.

Written by Rob Urbinati, the actual historical account has been the subject of numerous TV shows, including Dr. Phil. What is the blockbuster surprise at the end, years later from jail, as the sixty year sentences are pronounced, the bunch in orange jumpsuits, tell of the horrors they endured during their childhoods. The direction by Sean Pollock, an accidental circumstance of the set causes the scenes to break up the action in a nonlinear fashion at various corners of the room. The audience is seated in two rows of seats placed in the center of the room. The scenes are quick with lively pacing, leaving the audience, at times standing with anticipation to see what is happening around the room and behind them. The set is simple, leaving room for rich imagination on the part of the audience.

The final thought that rings true in the hearts and minds of  the audience is that adolescence is not always the  smooth and happy path  wrought with happy passionate encounters; s with harmless events,  people, places and most of all, innocent fun. The truism is that if the ingredients mixed in the cake batter is toxic, life’s deserts can be an everlasting repetition of the behavioral mix, leaving the bad tasting residue to linger in the minds of the young for a lifetime, permeating all human encounters. As the actors reveal their tormented pasts in orange jumpsuits, the audience comes to see why such things can occur.

 

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