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A mythical tale of witches and Appalachian backwoods folk sets the stage for a story of star-crossed lovers entangled in a world where different races don't mix.
Dark of the Moon, the Branford High School (BHS) fall play, opens Thursday, Dec. 6 with additional shows on Friday, Dec. 7 and Saturday, Dec. 8 (all shows are at 7:30 p.m.; tickets are $5). Director and BHS English teacher Maria Ogren said this year's student cast has attained just the right rustic twang and a great appreciation of what this drama conveys.
"It's a very different story and it speaks to a lot of different people about a greater idea. It talks about tolerance and acceptance and the fear of that which we don't understand, but it's couched in fantasy," said Ogren.
The play, by Howard Richardson and William Berney, enjoyed a successful Broadway run in the 1940s. In this production, Ogren brings the audience into both a mystical world where "earth-spirit" witches chant and a Smoky Mountain community in which people are prone to dance and sing.
"There are a lot of old folk songs and we have a big, rousing number, 'Mountain Dew,' which everybody loves. It involves the entire cast and crew?I would love to get the audience to jump up and do it!" said Ogren.
Ultimately, this southern gothic fairy tale is a Romeo and Juliet story, says Ogren, involving John the witch-boy's deal with magical Conjur Woman to give him one year as a human with the woman he loves, Barbara Allen, who must return her love exclusively to him for a year (unbeknownst to her). But suspicions in the highly religious human community grow as John attempts to learn to live like a man and husband while avoiding church, from which he's been forbidden.
Ogren doesn't want to give away the climatic ending except to hint "the community pressures become too great."
She does want to credit her cast and crew with putting in an exemplary amount of time and effort, which the audience will instantly recognize from the perfect Appalachian dialect to some fine dramatic acting and enthusiastic crowd scenes.
"I did this play a number of years ago here. I just like it so well. It has a huge cast and we have students from all grades involved, and a lot of new people this year, and a lot of freshmen," said Ogren, who also thanks BHS English teacher Cynthia Brooks for her assistance with the production.
This year's cast features Dan Lalor as John and MaryColleen Whitney as Barbara Allen. Other featured players are: Dan Frye, Haley Brown, Cara DeLucia, Elise Ryan, Sara Mierz, Rob Hardy, Spencer Steinke, Cam Nicholas, Marissa Salazar, Tyler Evon, Sam Brookman, Travis Johnson, Rachel Hanchuruck, Hunter Izzo, James Torello, Francesca Cimino, Mike Cappiello, Megan LaCroix, Eimanuelle Pendon, Hailey Nelson, Michael McCarthy, Michaella Crane, Cooper Biancur, and Andrew Stone. Ensemble players are Ricci Gold, Paige Machuicz, Alla Miller, Mansi Chapatwala, Carlye Mazzucco, Michael Streeto, Chris Altavilla, and Jordan Basilicito as townspeople and Claire Paterson, Jade Ye, Aria Jones, Kevin Do, Keegan Biancur, and Iana West in the witch ensemble.
Dark of the Moon runs Thursday, Dec. 6; Friday, Dec. 7; and Saturday, Dec. 8 (all shows at 7:30 p.m.) at Branford High School, 185 East Main Street, Branford. Tickets are $5 (general seating) at the door.