Stephen Evans, Michael Gilles and Morey Norkin, the longtime actor-chums who became the founding triumvirate of the Annapolis Theater Project, are obviously doing something right.
Not only are they doing what they love while getting their young company off the ground, but they also have access to the very best actors and actresses the Annapolis area has to offer. Leading performers from Colonial Players, the Summer Garden Theater, the Pasadena Theater Company and others regularly sign on with the project to produce out-of-the-mainstream HTC (sometimes homemade) plays that, so far, have been eminently worth the effort.
The Annapolis Theater Project's latest effort is the musical revue "Is There Life After High School?" which will play Friday and Saturday evenings at the Humanities Lecture Hall on the Anne Arundel Community College campus through Nov. 9.
Everyone is a nostalgia buff at heart, and the memories of high school are more lasting than most. When personality, intellect and hormones kick in simultaneously, can the images be anything but indelible?
"Is There Life After High School?" is a clever, snappy show devoted to the proposition that though we may survive high school, we never forget it. Monologues and songs from cheerleaders, homecoming queens, athletes, nerds, class clowns and the cruelly ridiculed encourage us all to smile and cringe at the highs and lows that only 15 to 18 can know.
All seven performers sing well, change gracefully from character to character and strike many responsive chords with their audience.
There are many fine moments.
Sally Philips and Jill Compton are excellent as a pair of high school chums recalling the warmth of their friendship ("Fran and Janie"). Compton also shines as the wiser, older homecoming queen reliving past glories.
Norkin and Gilles are very funny when inconsistent accounts of their big "rumble" turn the event into a sort of pre-pubescent "Rashomon." Norkin and Diana Wolfe reminisce beautifully in "I'm Glad You Didn't Know Me," and the boozy trio of Norkin, Gilles, and Wendell Holland is very amusing.
And honestly and unpretentiously, Vickey Estep shared the gentle irony that makes the show so poignant: "Funny the things you think of; funny the things you don't," she sang.
There are some production problems that should be ironed out. The piano accompaniment, though exceptionally well-played, is often too loud.
Lighting cues Friday evening came by way of another planet, and there were several cast members faking the lyrics in the ensemble numbers. It's tough to hide in a cast of seven.
But the overwhelming impression was one of my own high school memories flooding my brain. My best friend Sandy Darity's phone number. I'm 38 now. I've still never met a brighter guy.
Why did I help Lyn Singer get Curt Siddall to ask her out when I'd had a cosmic crush on her myself since the third grade?
If Sharon Field has a long memory, my future nomination to the Supreme Court could be in real jeopardy.
And I still get a lump in my throat whenever I hear Art Garfunkel's gentle tenor crooning "For Emily Wherever I May Find Her." It was my first kiss after all. Laurie Robertson's eyes were closed. I know, because mine were open.
Funny the things you think of; funny the things you don't.