The Branford High School fall play Dark of the Moon is kind of like Romeo and Juliet with witches, said the lead the cast. But it’s nothing like Twilight; they were quick to add when Patch asked.
Dark of the Moon, which opens Thursday Dec. 6 (runs to Dec. 8), is a dark love story by Howard Richardson and William Berney that had a run on Broadway in the 1940s. Since then, high schools and colleges have been performing the work, though the subject matter is so complex, it is not recommended for young children.
In a small community in the Appalachia Mountains, a witch-boy, John, played by sophomore Dan Lalor, falls in love with a human, Barbara Allen, played by sophomore MaryColleen Whitney. John gets the Conjure-folk to change him into a human so he can be with Barbara. The only stipulation is that his lover, a formerly promiscuous girl must remain faithful to him for a year.
“It’s kind of like us verses them, said Whiney of this dark, American fantasy. Not only is Preacher Haggler, played by senior Sam Brookman, the villain against the two lovers, the entire town is against them. In rehearsing, one student playing a townsperson said to Maria Ogren, the fall play director, “What kind of people are we?”
Ogren uses words like intolerance and injustice to describe Dark of the Moon. “Really it’s a denial of people’s natural urges to be human essentially,” she said. “The play says a lot about tolerance for individual differences and minding one's own business when "others" are just trying to live their lives happily without bothering anybody.”
In addition to biting off heavy subject matter, the students said they have to learn to speak with an Appalachian accent – no easy feat.
“This is a really big challenge,” said Whitney. “It’s hard to play someone with so many emotions.”
On stage, Whitney and Lalor have the momentous challenge of conveying to the audience they have a stillborn witch-child, without showing any graphic scenes. The child, they explained is dark and has claws. How will they do it? Rachel Hanchuruck, senior who plays Mrs. Summey, said: “You’ve got to put your emotions and imagination into the character to portray what you are feeling – they’ll [the audience] only see what you think.”
“Everything is this play…” Whitney added, “you have to have the ideas in your head.”
To get into character, Cameron Nicholas, junior, who plays Marvin Hudgens, said most of the cast reflects on the feeling of being unaccepted. “I think we can all relate to oppression,” he said.
A tall order for Branford High School Performing Arts students or any high school for that matter, Ogren said she’s confident her students can rise to meet the challenge. Also, she added that this is the second time the work is being performed at BHS – the last time was when one of her current students' mother was the lead of Barabara more than 20 years ago.
Dark of the Moon has a haunting storyline with a tragic twist but it also features song, dance and the stellar acting of the BHS cast. And if you need any other reason to attend, Brookman, who has been studying preachers on film to ready for the role, said, “It’s tantalizingly twisted… if you want to see how we pull it off, be sure to come.”