Saturday, November 15, 2014

The Outsiders—Battle Ground Drama Club—Battle Ground, WA.

“…Nothing Gold Can Stay”

S. E. Hinton’s novel and film has been turned into a stage play, adapted by Christopher Sergel and directed by Stephan “Cash” Henry.  It is playing at Battle Ground High School in The Lair through November 22nd.  For more information, go to their site at http://www.battlegroundps.org/blog/bghspresentstheoutsiders

There is a terrific movie of her novel, too, which was early in the careers of Ralph Macchio, Matt Dillon, Diane Lane, Tom Cruise, et. al.  There was also a follow-up novel/movie, Rumble Fish, that was equally good.  This semi-classic was written in the late sixties by a teenage girl, so she knows of whence she speaks.  It is about the angst of teens in their “salad days” and the caste system between, perhaps, the well-bred (Soc’s) and the well-meaning (Greasers).

The Soc’s were the rich kids who dressed their parts and were usually the jocks and cheerleaders in school, the popular ones, you know the type.  The Greasers were usually from troubled or broken homes, living on the poorer side of town.  And so gangs were formed and turfs were defended.  Never the twain shall meet.   Other familiar ground for this story around the same time period would be Rebel Without A Cause, Blackboard Jungle, and The Wild One, and the musicals, West Side Story, Grease, and Hairspray.

One of the last things a character in the play says, “Stay Gold,” which refers to Frost’s poem, but also to holding onto and treasuring those teenage years, as they will ne’er be again.  Who we are as adults in many ways reflects who we were as Youths.  And the differences between people from all walks of life are not really so different from anyone else.  If we can create those chasms, real or imagined, we can break them, too, as they attempt to do in this wonderful but tragic story.

The narrator and main character is Ponyboy (Skyler Denfeld), a Greaser, who lives with his two older brothers Darry (Tullee Stanford) and Sodapop (Reagan Joner).  Darry is the breadwinner and a control-freak and has dropped out of school to support them.  But Ponyboy is the smart one, gentle, and a reader of the classics such as Salinger, Dickens and Gone with the Wind.  He also is a writer of poems and stories and this sets him apart from just about everybody.

His best friends are Dallas (Jack Harvison), a drop-out, who will rumble at the drop of a hat; Two-Bit (Max Greener), another drop-out but somewhat of a gentler sort; and Johnny-Cake (Cody Bronkhorst), a troubled soul, who was badly beaten in a fight with the Soc’s and now is traumatized by that event.  But in their travels they meet Cherry (Desiree Roy), a Soc but seemingly sympathetic to the softer musings of Ponyboy.  Of course, none of this crossing of the lines will go unnoticed and in the end, some die, some run away but all are changed by these events.  And, in the process, they grow up and learn, perhaps, that we are all shades of gray and that tolerance may be the stepping stone to understanding.

I certainly will not give away the ending but the story itself has a ring of truth to it in which, I think, we can all understand and identify with.  I certainly do.  And doing this with a cast of actual teens is not only a creative experience for them but a great learning tool as well.  The adaptation by Sergel is awkward, jumping too many times between scenes, but the cast soldier’s forward and is effective despite this hiccup.  And the simple but effective sets by Sundance Wilson Henry greatly aid the flow of the story.  “Cash” Henry’s direction of these young people is always a pleasure to watch as he seems to have the ability to pull the essence of characters from young actors and always succeeds in letting them shine.

The major roles in the cast are very convincing.  Denfeld, in the pivotal role as Ponyboy, has the right look and feel for the role.  Bronkhorst in the complex role of the troubled teen, Johnny-Cake, really does the role justice, showing the different layers of the character.  Harvison as the tough-boy image, Dallas, has the right combination of macho and yet sensitivity the role demands, even looking a bit like Matt Dillon (who played the role in the movie).  And Roy, as Cherry, is a good choice for the role and proves she does have a real talent for the stage.  The rest of the cast also shows promise.

And where was I in this menagerie of social wanderers, you may ask.  I was, you guessed it, an actor and in the drama club, an outsider, a loner, as artistic people really had no status.  They were simply tolerated but ignored by all the major social groupings.  So I identify not only with the characters in the play but with the young artists who are creating them.  And if the Arts are your Dream, never let them die.  “Stay Gold!”

I recommend this show.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.