Cappies Review of W.T. Woodson High School's Double Feature: Buddies and The Philadelphia

By Communication and Community Relations
May 13, 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. 

The Cappies continues this year with virtual performances. Students learning through the theatre arts is as important as ever. Most performances this year are written by students and are available to watch on the Cappies website. Some performances do require a fee to view online.   

Editor's Note: This review of W.T. Woodson High School's production of Buddies and The Philadelphia is written by Elizabeth Cheek of Justice High School.  

What happens when a mysterious VHS tape goes rogue? Or when you find yourself stuck in a recurring pattern of unintentional jinxes? 

The answers, surprisingly, may be found amid our own lives.

W.T. Woodson High School's enthralling double feature of Buddies!/The Philadelphia combines productions that illustrate the thrilling yet hysterical sensations of losing touch with reality. From the expert portrayal of harmless curiosity turned inexplicable fear, to the reactions one has when faced with repeatedly unfortunate situations, the students have crafted a remarkable contrast in artistic expression while remaining devoted to the themes evident in almost otherworldly times.

The riveting audio tale of Buddies! followed friends Ashley, Nicole, Brittany, Mikey, Chris, and Jessie, as they encountered bizarre activity on a VHS tape of an old sitcom with characters Mama and Papa Buddie wishing to find their son, Billy, some friends. The tape's suspicious nature left the friends distraught, wishing to be rid of it, though it appeared the Buddies had other plans.

This podcast-style performance enhanced the work of student-driven theatre in an eerie yet oddly captivating way. Impeccable audio mixing and effects by Rachel Sper played a prominent factor in its sinister delivery, from the tape's vintage laugh track to the door slams and footsteps dispersed among the six friends, that created an authentically immersive experience despite a lack of visual representation. Additionally, the entirely student-written script presents a thoughtful balance between the fluctuating gloominess and comedic elements, executed in a way that embraced a well-rounded and relatable feel. The actors were also commendable, as their distinct voices and clear tonal shifts assisted in the production's overall cohesiveness. Notably, Maddie Keene effectively expressed Brittany's progression from enthusiastic to frantic, while Farooq Khan's impression of both casual Mikey and the darkly melodious Papa Buddie displayed great vocal range that contributed to the cryptic tone.

After Buddies! came a David Ives one-act entitled The Philadelphia, which centered around a California Cool Al and dismal Mark at a restaurant and their resulting conversation after Mark revealed the unexplainably awful day he had been having. Al concluded that Mark must be "in a Philadelphia," where the only way Mark can get what he wants is by asking for the opposite. With remarks from a nonchalant waitress and some cruelly hilarious banter, Mark found a way to cope with his Philadelphia that inadvertently brought Al into it.

This modern-day adaptation refreshingly captured the delight of in-person theatre while integrating mask safety protocol into the performance. The use of a student's backyard for the setting elevated to the realistic feel with natural lighting and background noises. The costume design by Rachel Furr exhibited excellent characterization that helped differentiate the variance in moods, and Robbie Willcox's footage compilation elevated the continuity of the show, making the transitions appear smooth and accommodating of character's entrances. Furthermore, Willcox and Furr's depictions of Al and Mark's practically flipped personas made for enjoyable entertainment, with Willcox as Al showcasing their display of sudden agitation once Al realized he was in a Philadelphia, and Furr as Mark conveying the relaxed energy Mark embodied upon learning a way to navigate his predicament.

The somewhat alternate dimensions presented in this amusing double feature indicate uncontrollable situations, whether it be regarding the supernatural or common misfortune, frightening or comical, a tape or a Philadelphia. It is perhaps in these times that W.T. Woodson reminds us to acknowledge our lack of control, to persevere through our Philadelphias and VHS tapes, and simply look to the future.