By John Lyle Belden
They tried to warn us.
Some years ago, New Hampshire teacher Alan Haehnel wrote “15 Reasons Not to Be in a Play” to give our youth something of substance beyond “I don’t wanna!” when asked if they would like to be in a school play. That wasn’t enough, as some kids apparently enjoy being on stage, so Haehnel also wrote “18 More Reasons Not to Be in a Play.” And kids have used it – as a play.
Now the complete edition, Haehnel’s “30 Reasons Not to Be in a Play,” appears in Playscripts archives, and Main Street Productions’ “Rising Star” director Tanya Haas has taken the bait. In a two-hour diversion, which its participants insist is not a play, 19 talented local kids – second grade to senior – present this important (and hilarious) PSA at the Basile Westfield Playhouse.
The brave children recruited to this cause are Harrison Gapinski Coon, Ella Crites, Clayton Crocker, Livy Crocker, Blake Fortier, Dylan Fortier, Sammy Geis, Mia Gordon, Neil Hackman, Isabella Hasseld, Owen Hilger, Anastasia Hobbs, Tatyana Hobbs, Liv Keslin, Annalisa Schuth, Amaya Smith, Mason Yeater, Owen Yeater, and Quinn Yeater. I list them all because they all had lines and moments in the spotlight, and due to repeated family names, I’ll refer to them by their first names from here on.
Neil opens with the most simple reason — just two words — but as adults watching need more context, the list continues. Maybe it’s that certain teacher (Ella) or overbearing relative (Amaya). Mia reveals it could be her cell phone, or an allergy, or her mom (Isabella)’s camera, maybe just someone (Quinn) jumping the “cue.” Perhaps Liv would rather be an auctioneer? Maybe it’s growing up with Sammy, who still wants to play a fairy. Could it be Owen’s dreamy eyes? Or bumping into equally handsome Mason at the cast party? Do we have to bring Neil out again? Amaya has other simple, profound reasons, which she may have to explain.
The most entertaining – if this were indeed a “play” – is the dramatization of The Legend of Mort! (Mort… Mort… Mort…). The story is told by Isabella, with unnecessary color commentary by Owen (Ella, Mia and Amaya providing discipline); Mason as the famous Director Frankenburg; Harrison as the appropriately creepy Gordon; Sammy, Anastasia, and Tatyana as enthralled Actors; Blake, Dylan, and Clayton as the chorus of Echoes (echoes… echoes… echoes…); and Owen as ill-fated Mort, demonstrating that being a slacker and method-acting don’t mix.
Finally, if other reasons don’t suffice, the entire cast comes out, led by Harrison, to explain how a play could end civilization as we know it!
We’re convinced: One of the best reasons to go to a play is “30 Reasons Not to Be in a Play.” Performances are this weekend and Thursday through Sunday, Aug. 7, at 220 N. Union St., Westfield. Get info and tickets at WestfieldPlayhouse.org.