You would have to believe in leprechauns if you thought some 40 middle school actors could put on a play that didn’t end in disaster, but in fact, the Payson Junior Thespian Club found its own pot of gold Friday night in three Irish tales in the PHS auditorium.
Although it was only an hour long, the Irish-inspired tale of “Blather, Blarney and Balderdash” took the efforts of two high school directors (Danielle Ippolito and Matt Lafon) and more than 50 crew and cast members.
In the end, the play left you hopeful for the future of the drama program, as the actors’ physical comedy and slapstick skills inspired chuckles and smiles from a video camera-wielding audience of proud parents, relatives and friends.
The play unfolded in the Irish countryside where three rambunctious leprechauns, Blather, Blarney and Balderdash, played by Devon Robb, Jason Lemon and Austin Miles, agree to help a poor shepherd boy without a story to tell.
For Fin O’Grady (Cody Rislund), living is rather miserable when he realizes he doesn’t have any tales to tell to impress a lovely lass he wishes to marry. Seeking a worthy tale, the shepherd turns to three leprechauns for guidance in Patrick Rainville Dorn’s play.
The leprechauns take O’Grady on a journey through three tales, as they illustrate the art of storytelling.
O’Grady learns “a story is something that grows the more you tell it.”
Through the tale of the “Hunchback of Knockgrafton” to “The Griffin’s Feather” and finally “The Bird, the Mouse and the Cricket,” audiences laughed at students’ point-on, slapstick comedy.
Blather, Blarney and Balderdash carried the play well with their Irish accents and quick one-liners.
But the tales not only amused, they underscored the importance of good humor, good will and good nature.
Like most folk tales, the stories hide a deeper message.
In the first tale, O’Grady and the leprechauns watch as the friendly hunchback Lusmore (Jake Marr) is rewarded for his positive nature by a group of singing fairies.
After Lusmore helps the fairies finish their tune with the lines “a boiled potato and a pickle,” the fairies remove his hump.
With this, O’Grady asks the leprechauns if this is the end of the tale, but they assure him that with any Irish fairy tale there is always a “dark side.”
When the evil hunchback Madden (Adam Reses) tries to trick the fairies with his own lyrics to get his hump removed, the fairies are wise to his shenanigans. For punishment, the fairies give Madden two humps.
Throughout the scene, it isn’t just the play’s script that evokes laughter, but the fairies ridiculous singing and the cast knocking their head with their fist every time the words “Hunchback of Knockgrafton” are spoken.
In the next fable, O’Grady watches as protagonist Aidan (Steve Martinez) takes on the daunting task of gathering three griffin’s feathers to wake a sleeping landowner’s daughter.
This tale gave the cast a chance to highlight their physical comedy skills. The innkeeper’s daughter (Kiki York) did a great job sneezing and wheezing on cue and the farmer (Ryan Ayers) fumbled around the set, tossing his box of gold with such force he inadvertently broke the box.
The play continues with more songs and laughs in the final tale.
In the end, O’Grady learns more than enough to tell a good tale and win Pegeen Flaherty’s (Elle LeBlanc) hand in marriage.
The entire cast did such a great job committing to their parts you forgot you were watching mostly middle school actors.
If this is the future talent of the school, expect many more great plays.