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Woodinville’s dark tragi-comedy ‘The Visit’ is perfect for the winter

  • Written by Kirsten Abel
It’s winter in Washington, which means rain, cold, and more rain. It also means it’s time for the Woodinville High School Theatre Department to produce its annual drama, and this year’s absurdist tragi-comedy “The Visit” by Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s might be its most captivating yet.
 
“You’ll laugh a little bit, and then not,” said Ethan Yee, a Woodinville High School senior.
 
“It’s not the lightest,” added senior Torquil Carmichael.
 
The Visit 1The cast of Woodinville High School’s winter play, ‘The Visit.’ (Photo by Katharina Bomers-Muller)And while “The Visit” might not be the cheeriest of plays, it is a compelling one. The story centers around Claire Zachanassian, a millionairess played by senior Kathryn Lampe who returns to visit the impoverished German town she was raised in.
 
“She offers the town a very large sum of money, for a terrible price,” explained Sonja Marcus, a senior who plays the town doctor.
 
“The point of absurdism is to show that there doesn’t always have to be a beginning, middle, and end,” said Sophia Hall, a senior who plays the painter. “There’s not always character development. It’s just people and you’re getting a look into their lives.”
 
Without giving away the good parts (no spoilers here), “The Visit” explores the slippery and often murky sides of justice and morality.
 
Residents of the town must decide whether or not to compromise their own morals in order to accept Claire’s money, something that would better their lives and improve the plight of the town.
 
“You have your conflicting righteousness versus evil. I feel my character kind of plays that in human form,” said Mesgana Yosief, a junior who plays the priest. “I feel like it comes down to the basis of what is good and what is wrong. Is religion a thing that will push an individual to do what is right or to do what is wrong? Or is it just a backdrop or an excuse to hide behind?”
 
Cole Parker, a junior who plays a bodyguard, said “The Visit” was the students’ choice.
 
“We picked this play from several others that maybe were a little more lighthearted,” he said. “There was a lot of potential growth in this show.”
 
Growth was key for the actors involved in the play. Fun wasn’t quite as important.
 
“For all of us to be these really stock, kind of archetypal characters at the beginning of the show and then having to navigate through a deterioration of that character by the end, I wouldn’t call it fun like we’re all smiling and laughing for all of rehearsal,” Yee said. “But it’s definitely an interesting process to go through.”
 
Derek Mulkins, a senior who plays the town mayor, echoed Yee’s point. “You’re acting with a bunch of your friends, and when you have to do bad stuff to your friends you always feel a little bad,” he said.
 
The students have been using various methods to get into the mindsets of their characters. Carmichael, who plays the schoolmaster, channeled his father, a professor. He’s even wearing his dad’s shoes for the show.
Yee, who plays Alfred Ill, said he’s trying to capture the loneliness of his character.
 
“My character in general is kind of isolated, increasingly. And alienated, increasingly,” he said. “So I just kind of stopped hanging out with people.”
 
“He eats lunch by himself,” Yosief added.
 
“As a senior with college app deadlines and finals week coming up, it’s not hard to play someone that’s really worn down and exhausted all the time,” Yee replied with a laugh.
 
And then there’s Nolan Spencer, a junior who plays the butler. Spencer took a slightly less intellectual approach.
 
“My character in this one doesn’t talk and stands there for the majority of the show,” he said. “I’m not going to sugarcoat it. I looked up videos of emperor penguins walking.”
 
Ben Winarske and Hans Bomberg play two blind men.
 
“Hans and I, we’re pretty much the same character. We speak at the exact same time,” Winarske said.
 
They ran a few lines together as an example, and it was eerie. The whole play, in fact, sounds pretty dark and eerie in the best, most intriguing way possible.
 
See “The Visit” for yourself at 7 p.m. on January 26 and 27 and on February 2 and 3. Go to www.whstc.org for more information.

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