Cappies Review of the Heidi Chronicles at Lake Braddock Secondary School

By Communication and Community Relations
November 15, 2021

Fairfax County Public Schools students are talented actors, musicians, and visual artists. Many FCPS high schools participate in the Washington, D.C., chapter of the Critics and Awards Program for High School Theatre, otherwise known as the Cappies.

The Cappies is a program through which high school theater and journalism students are trained as critics, attend shows at other schools, write reviews, and publish those reviews in local newspapers. There are fifteen Cappies chapters across the United States and Canada.

Editor's Note: This review of Lake Braddock Secondary School’s production of The Heidi Chronicles is written by Lillian Ali of Langley High School.

Rich shades of azure blue folded beneath intricate strokes of white floral lacing cinched around a woman with delicate, auburn curls. The soft strokes of Lilly Martin Spencer's "We Both Must Fade" projected center stage at Lake Braddock Secondary School's production of The Heidi Chronicles. The auditorium beamed four golden spotlights onto actors dispersed within the crowd, who vigorously took notes on the woman in the painting and transformed the audience into part of the play as peers. With the bar immediately set high, The Lake Braddock Theatre worked hard to maintain a consistently extraordinary performance.

Wendy Wasserstein's Pulitzer Prize winning The Heidi Chronicles followed independent Heidi Holland from high school to adulthood as she strived for success as an art historian in a society ruled by men during the mid to late 1900s. The play also brought to light the struggles of gay men during the 60s and 70s and their equally important role to support other minorities.

Throughout the production, Liesl Winternitz as Heidi Holland asserted her character as a self-assured and forward-thinking individual by adopting confident posture, expressions, and even vocals. Linus Brannam as Heidi's best friend Peter Patrone developed a believably genuine relationship with Winternitz as the play progressed, and Brannam did a remarkable job of signaling anger and sorrow by letting the stage lights cast shadows on certain features. 

The only times Winternitz's confident demeanor shifted was in an exasperated response to Scoop Rosenbaum (Josh Reiff)'s comical reflection of the obnoxious arrogance in sexist men. His blunt delivery when grading or rating items and women brought an amusing yet very real tone to its scenes - a perfect example of the cynical ambiance of the play.
 
Other notable mentions are Heidi's high school friend Susan Johnston (Lake Rusch), who set the tone of the production with laughter as a relatable swooning teenage girl with impeccable timing on her delivery, and Scoop's picture-perfect wife Lisa Friedlander (Amelia Campbell-Reidhead) who portrayed a sweet, lovable character with a southern accent and domestic aspirations.

One of the most impressive factors of the production was the live orchestra that threaded each scene together. Jazzy bass progressions from Claire Copes and crisp drumbeats from Charlee Baldwin blended extravagantly with lively guitar from Jake Sizemore and smooth synth from Noelle Koss to form an environment accurately encapsulating each decade the play covered. Ally Harbourt's lead vocals were particularly noteworthy from her generous range to her strong vibrato as animated tunes were incorporated into scenes depicting the actors listening to music, all without missing a beat. 

The set on which the actors performed was intelligently designed by Sungah Kong, featuring a versatile platform constructed using slanted planks to change its appearance when rotated at different angles. Lighting designed by Katie Brusseau was thoughtfully added as LED strings to the clever backdrop of picture frames crafted by the set team. This lighting beautifully silhouetted the actors, who never stopped performing while on stage, during scene changes.

Costumes adhered to a neutral and retro color palette; growing in sophistication as the characters aged and years passed. Angelia DeJesus implemented consistent detailing for every performer's attire, including the orchestra's which similarly adjusted to the decade. Heidi was fittingly dressed in fashion-forward outfits for each time period, and Susan's dress during Scoop's wedding, in particular, emphasized her eccentric personality as it sparkled beneath the stage lights. 

From the sheer amount of interactive props managed by Lindy Nelson to the quick and efficient transitions between scenes managed by Wilson Weingast, Lake Braddock Secondary School's The Heidi Chronicles was a clearly well-rehearsed production worth seeing again