Emerson Stage brings Sachar#039;s Sideways to life at Cutler Majestic Theatre

by Beacon Staff • November 16, 2005

Mrs. Gorf is the meanest teacher in the history of Wayside School, and when she disappears, the students of the 30th floor think they will finally be able to have a normal class . boy, are they wrong. Currently being performed at the Cutler Majestic Theatre, Sideways Stories from Wayside School, which was adapted for the stage by critically acclaimed playwright John Olive from the popular children's books by Louis Sachar, shows the crazy events that happen in their classroom at Wayside School-from hypnotism to magic.

Though it is based on a children's book series, adults and children will be able to find humor in the zany cast of characters and the off-the-wall experiences they face. Thomas McGinn, Katie Brydon, Maria Alegre, Tiffany-Denise Turner and Peter William Dunn appear as the students.

McGinn, a senior acting major, plays the smart and nerdy Myron, who has a penchant for pulling pigtails and undergoes a somewhat unfortunate but extremely hilarious hypnotism at the hands of the school counselor. Other well-cast performances come from senior acting and theatre education double major Brydon as the clever Bebe, senior acting major Turner as goofy Rondi and senior acting major Alegre as the pig-tailed Leslie. Dunn, a junior film and writing, literature and publishing double major, rounds out the cast of students with a convincing performance as the always smiling and effervescent Dameon.

When Mrs. Gorf disappears, the students of the 30th floor are relieved to find that she has been replaced by Mrs. Jewls, an exceedingly nice teacher who has entertaining ways of teaching everything from math to music, and tells the students to feel free to let her know if she ever bores them. They are not afraid to sneeze in class and begin having fun while they learn. Mrs. Jewls is played by second year graduate student Julia Propp, who puts in a solid performance as the enthusiastic and energetic teacher. For a while, the students are content to play instruments and write poems with their new teacher, and life in the classroom seems to have turned around.

But, just when the students think they are completely free from the horrors of Mrs. Gorf, crazy things start to happen. Mrs. Jewls goes missing, and a substitute teacher arrives who has an uncanny resemblance to their first teacher. Things start to stir up again and it is up to the students to figure out what to do to restore their classroom to the happiness and harmony they had with Mrs. Jewls.

Although the first act is entertaining and has its hilarious moments, it is during the second act that the play completely takes off. This is due in large part to the performances of senior acting major Ryan Garbayo, who plays a variety of roles from the quirky school counselor Mr. Pickle, "pronounced pick-EL," to tango teacher Miss Valoosh and the offending substitute teacher. Garbayo's physical comedy and over-the-top characters are sure to get a laugh out of anyone watching.

The cast also includes senior musical theatre major Ariel Heller, who plays the ridiculously funny gym teacher, Louis-complete with short shorts, tall socks and a dance routine capable of inducing hysterical laughter.

The set, designed by guest artist Crystal Tiala, is true to the off-the-wall theme of the play as the classroom has a crazy and irregular feel with its curving floor and checkerboard prints. The script and direction also do well in translating the absurd entertainment of the books onto the stage.

Sideways Stories from Wayside School provides for an enjoyable evening out for kids and adults alike. Whether you have read the books and want to see the crazy characters brought to life, or you are completely new to the wacky ways of Wayside School, you are sure to have a good time.

Sideways Stories from Wayside School will be performed at the Cutler Majestic Theatre, 219 Tremont St., tomorrow at 7:30 p.m. and Sat., Nov. 19 at 1 p.m. Tickets are available at www.maj.org and the Majestic box office, and are $9 for the Emerson community, $14 for students and seniors; all other seats are $21.