Who doesn’t love a thrilling yet wickedly engaging play about an eight-year-old sociopath who stops at nothing to get what she wants? Young Rhoda Penmark, the very picture of sweetness and old-fashioned manners, has mesmerized audiences with her predatory, murderous ways for more than 50 years.
Under the Lights, CMC’s theatre troupe, brings the beguiling Rhoda Penmark to life again in all her evil glory with a stunning revival of The Bad Seed. Superbly performed, classily designed, and menacingly paced, this play is a must-watch.
The show is a two-act dramatic play that revolves around eight-year-old Rhoda, the only child of Colonel Kenneth Penmark and his wife, Christine. When the Colonel is called away on business, his wife and young daughter are left at home to fend for themselves. After a young boy, who had won a medal Rhoda thought was rightfully hers, mysteriously drowns under suspicious circumstances, Christine must determine whether or not her well-behaved eight-year-old is actually a sociopath capable of murder.
Although the show is two hours long, the actors keep you captivated for every minute and dazzle you with their brilliant performances. The set is calming and warm, an apt representation of the characteristic loving household. The beautiful costumes not only made the actors look good, but also enhanced their characterization. The lighting and sound designs were splendid and helped enhance the more subtle details of the play. Sounds were not merely projected into the audience, but were strategically timed to add dramatic effects while not detracting from the play’s simplistic beauty.
Kiana Mendoza, playing Rhoda, circumvents stereotypes easily and gracefully flaunts the character’s underlying sense of the mercenary in perfect dosages, and only when appropriate. As the conniving, murderous eight-year-old, Mendoza is eerily frightening, with her lovely yet foreboding smile.
Cast as the devoted mother Christine Penmark, Anoush Baghdassarian gives a performance that is nothing short of revelatory. Eschewing any false sense of theatricality and overacting for a well-modulated performance that gains in stature with each passing moment, Baghdassarian is a pleasure to watch. Her portrayal of the character elicits sympathy and warmth from those around her, whether they are onstage or in the audience.
Cassandra Lewis, playing the comically loud and overblown Monica Breedlove, gives a pitch-perfect performance as the meddlesome landlady, never over-playing the role even while having a visibly superb time bringing her character to the stage. Her performance is probably one of the most refined portrayals of Monica Breedlove I have ever witnessed.
Christus Ahmanson, drawling his lines in a perfect accent, playing the simple-minded yet wicked Leroy, gives a performance that keeps you hooked and leaves you wanting to see more of him throughout.
Celia Flinn, as Hortense Daigle, the grieving mother of Claude, gives a stellar performance, walking a very fine line as she exhibits the drunken character’s grief-stricken histrionics while never going too far in doing so.
Jake Hudson-Humphrey is an altogether prim and proper Mr. Fern, the headmaster of Rhoda’s school, and goes on to command the stage irrespective of the length of the role. As Monica’s brother Emory, Henry Minervini effectively understates the part. Anthony Davanzo is perfectly cast as Christine’s beloved father, who holds the key to unraveling much of the mystery at the center of the plot. Tony Sidhom plays devoted husband and father Kenneth Penmark with a cool blending of period style and stage presence. Daniel Ludlam proves an authoritative Reggie Tasker, the crime writer who helps unlock the vault containing Christine’s long-repressed memories. And, finally, Evan Boyer gives a strong performance as Mr. Daigle, the loving and long-suffering husband and father Claude, who counterbalances his wife’s hysteria with his cool psyche.
The play is an amazing production by Under the Lights, one that doesn’t fail to impress. Don’t miss out on seeing The Bad Seed, and be prepared to be terrified by an eight year old. The play is creepy and the ending will surely leave you speechless! It will be playing in the Marian Miner Cook Athenaeum from March 28th to March 30th at 6:45 pm.