Life Guarding breaks conventions

Suddenly the stage goes dark. The spotlight is on the teacher, Liz Cooper, played by senior Anna Bisikalo, as she walks to the center of the stage. She points to her student and snaps. Next thing you know, Trevor Wilson, played by sophomore Dillon McGuire, is on all fours, barking and claiming that he will do anything for her. And then, just as suddenly, the lights go back to normal, and Ms. Cooper and Trevor resume their conversation as if nothing happened.

Life Guarding is a cast-written play, performed Saturday, March 2 as the Drama Society’s entry to the Massachusetts State Drama Festival. It was performed a second time on March 9 for the festival’s preliminary round of judging. The play will be performed for BHS at large at 7:30 p.m. on March 20 and 21. It follows the lives of three very different characters: a teacher, a doctor and a teenager who is also a lifeguard at the local pool. All three characters come together at an unusual site: an aquatics class.

The play is about how these three characters judge and demonize others. For example, the teacher judges the student to be a teacher’s pet. It goes as far as the doctor envisioning a patient’s mother as a helicopter, another doctor as a caricature of a cowboy, and his own mother as an angry giant. The teacher also demonizes her husband, labeling him a lie detector.

Though the theme is demonization, the play covers topics as diverse as lesbianism, affairs, overbearing mothers, respecting women, adoption and even religion. During each instance of demonization, quotes from the Bible are projected onto the white backdrop. There is so much going on in the play, I feel like I only understood three quarters of it. That is not a strike against the show, though—it just means that I want to see it again.

Though the script, with its hidden meanings and details, was the backbone of the piece, there was also much to admire in the performances by its actors. Sporting a graphic tee and pigtails, sophomore Kako Yamada, became a five year old, skipping around the stage. At one point, she told her doctor, “If I won’t be able to hear anymore, then I won’t be able to watch Dragon Tales,” in such a high-pitched, innocent voice that it brought laughter from the audience. Amid heavy themes, freshman Ryan Cook, who played one of the lifeguard’s classmates, was also quick to bring humor to the show. He doesn’t care about school, and would be best described as a “YOLO” shirt-sporting “player.” In one scene, he hugs the lifeguard and “doesn’t let go,” demonstrating how he gets a girl.

It would seem that Ryan Cook only appears for comic relief, but he is actually the one that ends the show. When the lifeguard, sophomore Dawaun Hardy, is about to pause the scene and demonize him, he changes his mind, and asks if Ryan Cook wants to hang out instead. The take-home message is that we should reserve our judgments before we get to know someone. The show ends with the two boys fistbumping to “aww”s from the audience.

How the cast had time to write such a complex story, become their characters and throw humor into the mix, I have no idea. Yet the whimsicality and thought-provoking ideas of the show could only have come from a group of high schoolers.

Maya Margolis can be contacted at [email protected]