Pickwicks' thoughtful 'Project 398.2' works like a charm

Over the course of two years, Midland Community Theatre's Pickwick Players have been creating 'Project 398.2: In a Land

Over the course of two years, Midland Community Theatre's Pickwick Players have been creating "Project 398.2: In a Land Far Away." The original piece under the direction of Bill Williams saw fruition last weekend. With a modern soundtrack and a nod to fairy tales, the show was a refreshing piece of theater.

The story follows two young women in parallel universes -- one real, one fantasy. Helen (Abby Cheek) is a crotchety teen dealing with the absence of her mother (Leanna Blackketter) and her new family when her father (Michael Williams) remarries. Elena (Sarahann Adams) is a princess on the run with her handmaiden (Eliora Davis) with masked men in pursuit.

In reality, Helen isolates herself with sarcasm and anger. She pushes away the wooing Conlan (Zach Jebsen). She dismisses her amiable stepsister Angela (Caitlin Lauritzen) and snaps at her stepmother (Kaylee Campbell) for her shoe obsession.

Helen meets Miss Cassidy (Carley Venter), a welcoming librarian who lets Helen stay after hours. There she discovers the fairy tale section.

Elena's stepmother, Queen Corvina (Elizabeth Smith), and father, King Kendrick (Josh Maguire), yearn for her return. The stable boy (Chris Cheek) steps up to find the princess.

IF YOU GO:

"Project 398.2: In a Land Far Away." Closes Sunday. 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 2: 30 p.m. Sunday at Midland Community Theatre, 2000 W. Wadley Ave. $28. mctmidland.org.

The show travels back and forth between each character punctuated by a smattering of contemporary music by Twenty One Pilots, Aimee Mann and Urselle. Equal in narrative, the heart of the show belonged to Helen's story, which makes the entire show work. Based on ideas by the students, the play offers a poignant and even heartbreaking perspective on school, family, loneliness and love.

The fairy tale world gives the audience a break from its dramatic counterpart with more humor but also its own family story of betrayal.

The refreshing aspect of "Project 398.2" was its freedom. Unburdened by a book or previous productions, the Pickwicks crafted a lovely show filled with emotion. That local teens created a play with such punch is a testament to the Pickwicks program but also to their own openness played out onstage.

Cheek carries the show with her surly attitude and then her character's redemption while writing her own story. Adams has impressive command as the princess.

Lauritzen's natural appeal is well-grounded, and Jebsen has blossomed into an endearing, quirky actor. As Miss Cassidy, Venter displays an astounding motherly charm well beyond her age.

A simple set of panels effectively sets the stage for each story. Costumer Micheal H. Willhelm-Waid went full force with the royal costumes that are exquisite in detail and color.




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