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Freshman Play Review: The Phantom Tollbooth

Even the program of

Even the program of "The Phantom Tollbooth", directed by Summer Williams, leaves the audience with a sense of whimsy. SARAH GROUSTRA/SAGAMORE STAFF

Even the program of "The Phantom Tollbooth", directed by Summer Williams, leaves the audience with a sense of whimsy. SARAH GROUSTRA/SAGAMORE STAFF

Sonia Bhattacharyya, Staff Writer

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In pitch black lighting, low voices began to cry, “You’re in the doldrums.” The audience found itself transfixed as deep voices, illuminated by gradually increasing red lights as fascinating characters rose up into full posture. The Lethargarians had appeared, clothed in hooded grey sweats, encircling Milo. This is just one of Milo’s many adventures. 

The freshman play, held in the Black Box on Dec. 7 and directed by Summer Williams, combined modern references, theatrical lighting, as well as captivating sounds, to demonstrate the high school’s own take on The Phantom Tollbooth. Though the main character, Milo, starring freshman Emma Perez, begins the performance bored and unamused by even television, she transforms into a character who can think for herself and use her imagination.

The performance began with a low ticking noise as freshman Noam Scully appears on stage, wearing a large, visual iPad cutout. He reminds the audience that time is important; he knew a girl that yawned and missed her entire summer break.

Milo immediately jumps onto the stage, and is presented as being caught in a very boring afternoon. A tollbooth is given to her, a gift given to “people who have never traveled to lands beyond”. She is instructed to travel in the tollbooth to Dictionopolis. The catch? She needs to use her mind to get the tollbooth engine going.

Milo’s journey wouldn’t be an adventure without compelling companions, and she is quickly escorted by Tock, the watchdog played by freshman Bradley Wolf. Tock promptly asks her why she is still stuck in the doldrums, a dimly lit place where Lethargarians spend the day dreaming, napping and wasting time. Milo recalls that she simply wasn’t thinking, and Tock urges her on to use her brain.

Pretty soon, Tock is filling in Milo on all the Dictionopolis news. Apparently King Azaz, and his brother, Mathemagician, played by freshman Tristan Conway and Jack Heuberger, have banished Princesses Rhyme and Reason, played by Ifeamaka and Ifunanyaife Richardson. The spotlight shines on King Azaz, who immediately captures the audience with his spellbinding, lit-up alphabet necklace, and his enthusiastic “Let’s hear it for words!”

Once in Dictionopolis, Milo and Tock are surrounded by venders selling words; Milo tries an edible “icy” letter C from one of the venders. The Spelling Bee, played by Priya Karumanchi, lights up the stage with incredible energy; she spells everything at rapid pace as she talks. A memorable line, “I took up work in people’s bonnets”, cracks up the audience as the delightful humbug, played by Charlotte McMahon, enters the stage.

Milo, Tock, and the Humbug set out to fulfill their mission: saving Princesses Rhyme and Reason. The larger-than-life characters encounter The Awful Dynne, played by Naomi Mirny, on their way to get the Mathemagician’s support and agreement, and the Dodecahedron. Three girls clothed in black, with black lipstick, colorful facial makeup, and pastel-colored multifaceted objects attached to their shirts, greeted Milo and her crew. Played by Sylvia O’Shea, Sasha Rizika, and Sarah Snyder, The Dodecahedron reasons with Milo, and takes them to the famed Mathemagician.

The Mathemagician also fabulously uses wordplay as he uses “broken numbers for fractions” and serves Milo, Tock, and the Humbug “subtraction stew”, which makes each consumer hungrier and hungrier the more they eat. He also uses a giant pencil to represent a magic staff. The Mathemagician scribbles into thin air to pull up messages with a satisfying Ding!  and even to multiply himself.

Milo encounters The Terrible Trivium, played by Clay Baker-Lerner, next. In a standout performance, The Terrible Trivium smoothly enters the stage with a witty “May I be of any help?”. His charm fades as he reveals that he intends to keep Milo, Tock, and The Humbug for 837 years as he forces them to carry out impossible tasks.

Milo, Tock, and the Humbug race to complete their mission, although they are slowed by terrible demon eyes projected on the wall and The Demon of Insincerity, played by Priya Karumanchi. In the end, Milo and her friends save the Princesses Rhyme and Reason, who are dressed in beautiful sparkling gowns, and order is restored.

Milo says her goodbyes as her new friends tell her that “many things are possible as long as you know they aren’t impossible”. In a rather circular moment, the Clock reappears, telling the audience how Milo feels about time now that she has so much to think, do, and imagine. The clock slowly ticking ends the show, and the audience is left with minds open to the endless possibilities of the imagination.

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Freshman Play Review: The Phantom Tollbooth