Don’t Look Back

By Student’s Theater for Aid in Global Emergencies (Newport Central Catholic High School)

May 29, 2014 at 12:54 am

Don’t Look Back is an admirable thrust in taking on large issues and relating them to life experiences, especially lives at the juncture of childhood and adulthood, i.e., high school. One of the most interesting things about this production is that the play itself was written by Gio Bakunawa, a Newport Central Catholic High School student, and stems from his own parents’ experience during a visit to their (and his) native Philippine Islands.

A typhoon trapped his parents there. They faced a terrible decision: Whether to leave the danger zone with or without one missing family member. In a six-part play divided into what the program calls “chapters,” the action moves from the present to the past three times and the need for a decision hovers over it all for the audience, most poignantly in the final section, the last of those representing the past.

The set was minimal but effective and open to swift transformations. I particularly admired a standing panel that suggested a house, became a jail cell and ultimately divided into two parts, one a vine-strung structure and the other a horizontal slant.

Silence was the defining factor in the first scene, during which hooded figures with flashlights searched through two trash cans and trash scattered about. Then, wham, we were in the past and things were more or less normal, although the scene was called “Into Battle.” Bouncing back and forth in time was a touch confusing, but we were being prepared for “The Decision” of the fifth scene and its epilogue in the sixth that told us how the painful conundrum came to be.

This is heady stuff. If the production was not always easy to follow, that’s not because it aimed too low. Aiming high carries its own dangers, and this presentation deserves kudos for taking on large issues. The acting is not always as strong as it might be, but Evan Brannon as Charlie stood out as being fully within his character.

Fringe Next productions are exciting to see because they show us that theater is a living entity, and that the next generation will be a vibrant contributor.

DON’T LOOK BACK by Student’s Theater for Aid in Global Emergencies (Newport Central Catholic High School) will take place at 8:15 p.m. May 30, and 7:30 p.m. May 31 at SCPA (108 W. Central Parkway, Over-the-Rhine).