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Decision Height
a Drama
by Meredith Dayna Levy

COMPANY : Elm Street Cultural Arts Village [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Elm Street Cultural Arts Village [WEBSITE]
ID# 5240

SHOWING : March 02, 2018 - March 11, 2018



From the winner of the 2013 Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival, comes a story about friendship and the complex though essential role of women in wartime. Virginia Hascall has left her home and fiancee to become a Women Airforce Service Pilot, and do her part to help defeat the Axis powers in the Second World War. Through triumph and tragedy, she and her sisters in flight suits learn as much about themselves as they do about airplanes. As the war rages over there, the women form a sisterhood that cannot be broken, and Virginia must make a decision that will change her life forever. With a cast of nine vibrant female characters, "Decision Height" offers a look into an under-recognized subset of American heroes and revises history into herstory.

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Landing Safely
by playgoer
Monday, March 12, 2018
The term "decision height" refers to the altitude at which a pilot must determine whether or not to go in for a landing. "Decision Height" the play tells the stories of six women training for the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) program in World War II, using a cappella songs of the period to establish mood, along with pre-show photos of actual WASPs assembled by dramaturg Marjorie Boeshans and presented as a slide show. The period mood is enhanced by the wonderful costume design of Cindy Flanders, period hairstyles, and Beth Diyenno’s props.

Siobhan Brumbelow’s scenic design is functional rather than attractive. A screen upstage is used for projections that help to establish location. Four-foot cubes right and left, covered in collages of period photos, are used for scenes indicating elevation. The upstage stairs leading to the top of the cubes are cleverly used for cot storage. A three-part round structure center stage at first represents a fountain and later is broken apart to provide seating or walls for other locations. Scene transitions are speedily accomplished. Savannah Lee’s sound design makes all the goings-on nicely audible and Beth Tate’s lighting design does the same for visibility.

Director Nicole B. Adkins’ blocking, on the other hand, sometimes obscures visibility for those at the sides of the audience. The cubes on the side and the arrangement of six cots creates a fairly shallow V of good sightlines, and cast members on the sides of the V can obscure views of cast members upstage of them. The blocking isn’t static at all, though, so sightline problems are transitory.

The show is introduced (and concluded) by recruit Virginia Hascall (Lydia Booth) reciting what she is writing in letters. Ms. Booth is extremely well-spoken, but focus doesn’t stay on her for long. We have five other recruits (Chloe Bayles as a scrawny scrapper, Kaisha Marlow as a brash rule-breaker, Marah McEntyre as a sweet songbird, Julie Robyn Turner as a good-humored mother hen, and Stephanie Willis as a high-spirited amateur photographer). All of them turn in good performances, with their impact pretty much proportional to their stage time. Authority figures played by Madeline Auchter and Joanne Geiger also come across extremely well, and the ensemble (Abby Brake, Madelynne Dunlop, Emmie Smith, and Miranda Stodola) do a fine job in keeping things moving along smoothly.

"Decision Height" is as educational as it is theatrical. It certainly shines a light on a largely forgotten population of empowered females supporting the war effort in World War II. Elm Street Cultural Arts Village is presenting the Southeastern premiere of the show in a creditable production that director Nicole B. Adkins has shaped to allow the impact of the storylines to come shining through. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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