Worst of times brings about best of plays

Worst of times brings  about best of playsBy CHRISTINA MACGREGOR, News Review Correspondent

Take a trip back in time to the French Revolution and be immersed in a wonderful, but also heart-wrenching, performance of “A Tale of Two Cities.”

CHER (Christian Home Educators of Ridgecrest) high school drama students will be presenting the tale at Cornerstone Bible Church at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 6, and Friday, June 7, with a matinee at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, June 8.

Heather Weaver excellently directs this dramatic production of the Charles Dickens novel, adapted by Joellen K. Bland. Even though the original book was written over 150 years ago, the themes and lessons from the story will resonate with audience members today.

Attendees will be immediately drawn in by the way the play is set up. Two narrators stand on both sides of the stage, representing England and France. The audience can see and hear the disparity between the two countries during that time period and more fully understand what the French Revolution was like for people who lived in both countries.

Students deliver fantastic British and French accents and thus bring about a more authentic performance because of it. One of the actors whodoes a good job of this is Daniel Cosner. He fully envelops the character of Sydney Carton. Cosner’s deep and contemplative voice is a perfect fit for Carton, a troubled soul who regrets the current state of his life.

As a London attorney, Carton had great prospects, but his choices have led him down a different path. Even his black suit shows the bleak, dull life he leads. Carton’s life is a cautionary tale to all of those who fail to develop their talents and/or don’t live up to their full potential. Many audience members will be left thinking about his character the most — partially because of Cosner’s excellent performance.

Another intriguing character is Charles Darnay, adeptly played by Ethan Menzel. Darnay is a French emigrant who flees his home country because he cannot deal with how the peasants are being treated. He is a benevolent, generous, and courageous character, but he still has his own problems to avoid. Darnay returns to France during the French Revolution at great personal risk, considering that he is a French aristocrat. Menzel’s great portrayal of the wholesome character makes you feel his pain and fears about his family’s past, and you wonder if he will get blamed for things that are not his fault.

Maggie Merrill skillfully plays Darnay’s love interest, Lucie Manette, an interesting and crucial role in this play. Lucie is the glue that holds many of the characters together. She is well-liked by both Carton and Darnay, and her gentleness and compassionate nature can easily be seen. Merrill brings a uniqueness to her role that audience members will enjoy, and it is delightful to watch her perform on stage.

A fascinating character connected to Lucie Manette is Miss Pross, the servant who raises her. MiKayla Jones brings Pross’s character to life on stage. Miss Pross is a tough soul who craves order, but at the same time is fiercely loyal and loving toward Lucie. When times get progressively more difficult throughout the story, you can visibly see the concern and determination on Jones’ face. Her character keeps the plot and pace of the play moving. She does an excellent job of pulling audience members into this play.

Another character who is integral to the plotis Lucie’s father, Dr. Manette. Jason Ertl plays the brilliant Paris physician who was absent from Lucie’s adolescence after being wrongfully imprisoned for 18 years. Dr. Manette has every right to be angry at the French aristocracy, but he chooses to be kind and help Charles Darnay many times.

Dr. Manette’s life is another example of how important kindness, forgiveness and compassion are, as well as the importance of not holding on to anger because of the past. Ertl does a phenomenal job of making the audience feel the many emotions that doctor goes through. Perhaps he will make you look at your own life differently.

One character, Therese Defarge, chooses the opposite path from that of Dr. Manette, and lives a life full of rage. Defarge’s sole focus is on bringing down the French aristocracy, and she even knits names on a registry of those she thinks deserve death sentences. Every play needs a great villain, and Megan Anderson delivers a deliciously evil performance of a character who is more focused on revenge then truly helping humanity.

Viewers feel for Madam Defarge, because life during that time period was extremely difficult for the poor. Anderson makes you feel saddened by her character’s plight, but also terrified of what Defarge will think of next, which only a great actress can do.

The lessons learned from the play will stick in your mind as you leave this spectacular production. Because of the level of content and length of the play (around two hours and 30 minutes), it is recommended that only ages 10 and older attend this show.

Tickets may be purchased at Red Rock Books or at the door, and are $10 for general admission, and $7 for military, seniors, and children ages 10-17.

Story First Published: 2019-05-31