Northwestern High School delivered a heart-warming production of “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.” Seats were arranged on risers onstage, so actors could speak directly to the audience rather than projecting from a stage. This intimate setting let the audience feel a part of the show, as characters interacted merely feet away from us.
The small stage was set with benches and chairs that adapted to many different settings. This simple set left much to the imagination but also gave actors freedom to interpret the setting as they desired. Director Tamara Altman used the entire space, including areas within the audience, to tell the story; I particularly enjoyed the kite suspended from the ceiling during “The Kite.” Snoopy’s doghouse served as a backdrop for many scenes, usually accompanied by a snoozing dog on top.
Hunter Ditsch delivered a heartfelt portrayal of the terminally unsuccessful Charlie Brown, bringing innocent cynicism to the show. Antavion Frederick’s Linus reminded us of our own childhood blanket obsessions while juxtaposing innocence and intelligence. Danielle Ferrell displayed her capacity to play a likable 5-year-old, complete with a fascination for large words such as “enigma” and “philosophy.”
But the two stand-out performances were delivered by Helen Coats and Megan Calkins. Coats clearly enjoyed her role as Snoopy the beagle, infusing the show with a lighthearted and dynamic energy. On multiple occasions, she commanded the space with sarcastic remarks and excitement over suppertime, with a tap routine to prove it. Calkins gave a memorable performance as crabby, demanding Lucy. She possessed a capacity to pitch a temper tantrum that would rival that of a toddler pageant princess as well as a lovely singing voice, though it did little to win over Beethoven-obsessed Schroeder.
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The play delivered a sentimental message of everyday kindness and generosity, reflected in the simplicity of the set and in the childlike acting. It follows an average day in the life of the iconic Charlie Brown and consists of several anecdotes, ranging from Lucy pining after Schroeder to Sally lamenting her poor grades to Snoopy sharing his dreams of someday shooting down the Red Baron.
Charlie Brown embodies the very insecurities that plague youth today, questioning his value as a student, teammate and friend. He laments the loneliness and anxiety of the world around him and looks to his friends to judge his worth, eventually determining that he is in fact a “good man.”