Step inside the SHS theater at 7 p.m. on January 26-27 and you would find the stage lit and set to be a 1965 apartment with an aspiring songwriter stuck between his mentally insane wife and his self-centered mistress.
The House of Blue Leaves debuted as the annual winter play and drew an audience to enjoy the high school talent with a mixture of comedy and tragedy. The lead role of Artie was brought alive by junior Jacob Pieplow.
“Artie is a zookeeper at the Central Park Zoo,” Pieplow said. “It’s set in 1965, and it’s the day the pope came to New York. Artie wants to get his songs into movies, and his best friend from school in his childhood is a Hollywood producer. So he has this big, romanticized dream of being famous. The problem is he sucks.”
As the plot swings back and forth between comedy and tragedy, the audience is brought into the playby the feelings of the actors. Artie’s wife, Bananas, is constantly unhappy with Artie’s unfaithfulness and the threat of being sent to a mental institution, but this low is offset by three nuns appearing on their roof, and the appearance of the deaf starlet Corrinna, played by senior Mia Stinemetz.
“It’s definitely a super funny show,” Stinemetz said, “but at the same time you can go from laughing your heart out to aching because it’s really deep and kind of dark and depressing at times but it’s also super funny and so it’s interesting that it can go from super funny to really dark and depressing that fast.”
This mixture gave some unique spins to the play, especially for director Betsy Dutton, who usually works with comedy or drama, rather than working with both.
“Last year, for example, I often do a straight drama, like The Amish Project, or I do a straight comedy, like Fools,” Dutton said. “This has both. So I think it’s unusual in that you expect it to be this rip roaring comedy, but it has some just flat out tragic parts in it too.”
The final tragedy is a climatic strangling of Bananas by Artie to wrap up the play.
“My favorite part of the play is basically Taya,” Stinemetz said. “Taya’s character, Bananas, was my favorite character and I think she did a really great job of portraying such a mentally insane person. My least favorite part is when Pieplow chokes Taya at the end. I think they both did a really great job there, but it was probably my least favorite part because now he’s mentally insane.”
In this incredibly emotional scene, Artie finds himself in such a deep hole that he must be rid of Bananas to survive.
“Theater requires so much from every aspect of your life,” Pieplow said. “Theater and film both require a display of emotion and vulnerability that a lot of people aren’t able to produce, and actors are able to produce it on hand.”
Many of these actors are talented in other areas as well, and put their all of their gifts to good use. In theater, due to playing different roles and different personalities, it can sometimes help actors to find themselves.
“In theater, you can be any type of person,” Stinemetz said. “I think that we have labeled it, like ‘these are the theater people, these are the sports people, these are the choir people.’ But I think that you can do whatever you want. You can enjoy not only sports but theater too.”
After six weeks of late practices and two performances, actors can be exhausted, but the work pays off.
“Theater is fun, it’s a family, it’s a team,” Pieplow said. “It’s a chance to portray a message and to captivate people in a way that nobody else can do. Nothing else can move people like film or theater. People might say theater is dying but it’s thriving. Come see it, come smile.”