Cappies Review: Spooky Fun and Dark Humor Shine in The Addams Family at Mount Vernon High School

By Office of Communications
June 04, 2024

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 Mount Vernon High School's production of The Addams Family is written by Ella Clarke of Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology.

Buh du du dum. *snap. snap.* 

The familiar yet entrancing rhythm draws you in, welcoming you into a world of gloom. Mice skitter across the floorboards, ancient sets of armor flank the double doors, and photographs of long-dead ancestors cover the walls. Welcome to the home of The Addams Family, chillingly performed by Mount Vernon High School.

First performed on Broadway in 2010, The Addams Family plays off the original Addams Family cartoon characters of the 1940s. It has won five awards, including a Drama Desk for set design, and has shared its dark comedy on four tours. Gomez and Morticia Addams, the leaders of their peculiar clan, have idolized pain and darkness for years. When their daughter Wednesday finds love in Lucas Beineke, a decidedly un-Addams optimist, they are forced to host a "normal" dinner with his family. The only problem: The Addamses aren't normal.

James Gilliam, playing the constantly torn Gomez Addams, perfectly balanced comedy and sincerity. Filled with well-timed quips and over-the-top gestures, the indecisive "Trapped" exemplified the quirky Addams energy, while the ballad "Happy/Sad" that saw Gilliam gently holding Wednesday's hands and gaze was relatable and highlighted how despite being atypical, the Addamses are still family. Similarly nuanced, Juliet Pascoe brought the many sides of Alice Beineke to life. Pascoe's open, friendly stance and lively laugh revealed Alice's original kind and bubbly nature.  Pascoe excelled within her transformation during "Full Disclosure," stealing the stage as she circled both families with raging strides and declared her frustration with her marriage in a strong, raw belt.

Michael Hodges's Mal Beineke, the exasperated husband of Alice, grounded the show with a strong sense of skepticism. From tensely grasping his son's arms while cautiously advising that dating a girl with a crossbow might not be the best idea, to promptly grabbing a pillow and walking out when suggested by his wife to sleep in the shed if he was going to be a fool, Hodges reflected a realistic, flawed human within Mal's inner struggle between his pride and his love for his family. Hodges' and Pascoe's relationship illustrated the pain of growth and change through strong, blended harmonies. In "Crazier Than You," the couple began singing separately, but soon joined together with spunky energy and vocals. Their twisting and passionate harmonies soared at the climax of the number, matching the fairy-light stars above.

Deep within the set, the lighting team (JJ Dunn, Aidan Hoo, Elizabeth Snyder, and crew) hid stark fixtures that, along with flickering house lights, created a dramatic, full-venue lightning effect. Fully stocked, thanks to the props team (Isabelle Chen, Elliot Cooper, Eva Greek, Natalie Stankiewicz), Grandmama's potion cart was filled with myriad many-sized and many-colored bottles with labels like "peyote" and "acremonium." The team also designed a chair with a retractable spike, reminiscent of the Spanish Inquisition, which palpably raised the tension anytime it was onstage. Just one of many torture devices in the Addams family home, these pieces embodied just how unusual the Addams family was.

From loving and hating to wishing and hurting, Mount Vernon's production of The Addams Family proves that people have many sides, a sentiment which Gomez fittingly encapsulates: "Life is full of contradictions."