by Jamie Joeyen-Waldorf of Langley High School
Put a pair of feuding Hollywood divas into the same hotel suite. Immediately, the self-destructing bomb of madness ticks away into an explosion of whimsical entertainment. Silly antics and ridiculously hilarious situations abounded in Oakton High School’s rousing, witty production of Suite Surrender.
Recently produced by Tysons Corner’s 1st Stage Theatre, Suite Surrender played to rave reviews and crowded audiences. Written by Michael McKeever, the show takes place in the 1940s at the fictitious Palm Beach Royale hotel. When two rival celebrity divas, Claudia McFadden and Athena Sinclair, sign on to perform at the same USO benefit concert, the hotel staff do everything they can to prevent them from ever seeing each other, including booking them in separate suites. Nevertheless, through administrative missteps, the two foes end up in the same suite, unbeknownst to each other. In a mad rush to fix matters, everyone faces demanding divas, mistaken identities, and rambunctious hotel guests in this frothy farce.
The ensemble’s adept comical timing was further enhanced with the impeccable pacing of the show and well-timed entrances and exits. Hilarious scenes were woven together flawlessly into a madcap comedy of organized chaos and never lingering energy in the crisp, intermission-free production.
Both Christine Cox, as Claudia McFadden, and Natalie Morales, as Athena Sinclair, showcased unwavering commitment to their characters, from the tirades of McFadden’s demands for her “long stem white roses” to Sinclair’s attempts to remember the number of husbands she has had. Cox effectively captured the essence of McFadden’s outlandish, prima donna personality, while also performing a charming rendition of George Gershwin’s “Someone to Watch Over Me.” Morales’ proficient alto belt served as meaningful contrast to McFadden’s light soprano voice. Dominating as the male lead, Spencer Waters as Dunlap, the orderly hotel manager, radiated a strong mature aura with clear enunciation, only to skillfully transform into a flustered mess of panic after the suite scheduling snafu.
Lovable bellhops, Francis (Raphael Ortiz) and Otis (Justin Pirocchi), proved to be a dynamic, comedic duo, performing simultaneous actions side by side. Ortiz especially shone with his impressive piano skills, puzzled facial expressions, and spot-on comical timing. Also notable was Madeline DeFreece as nosy news reporter, Dora Del Rio. Utilizing a unique walk, copious sass, and an obsessive desire to get the scoop, DeFreece’s skillful physical timing added a successful slapstick element to the show. Despite some rushed lines and garbled wording, actors dealt with the fast-paced, text-heavy script with aplomb.
Designed and built by Oakton’s Theatre Tech Class, the set included subtle, yet enhancing stenciling, marbling, and crown molding, all cohesively blending together in a visually sound color scheme that was simple and complementary, not detracting attention away from the actors. Props were plentiful, versatile, and adhered to the time period of the show. Though there were some lighting cue hiccups and a few wobbly set pieces, they did not hinder the presentation.
Encompassing a slew of colorful characters, adept actors, and visually appealing technical elements, Oakton High School’s Suite Surrender culminated in a highly enjoyable evening full of laughter, proving that the spirit of farcical comedies and light-hearted theatre are alive and well.