Theater Info for the St. Louis region

Francis Howell North High School Chateau La Roach

By • Oct 30th, 2011 • Category: Cappies

A cockroach, a newlywed couple, some con artists, an old man, a child star, a travel writer, and a nun all walk into a hotel‚ and so begins the production Chateau La Roach at Francis Howell North High School, but the punch line is in the ensuing calamity. Marked by silliness and chaos, the antics in this production provide constant slapstick comic relief.

With allusions to Justin Bieber and Jersey Shore, they adapt the modern-day script to the most recent of times. It centers on French hotel owners and their staff as they attempt to solve a six-legged, antennaed problem while trying to accommodate an eclectic mix of guests and prepare for a health inspection.

Francois Laroche (Zach Wood) and Mimi Laroche (Emily Katsianis) move the story along. Their use of French accents is consistent and comprehensible. Wood’s big motions and facial expressions add to his character and liven up the stage, and his accent seems the most accurate, consistent, and understandable.

Also enlivening the stage are the visitors to the Chateau, one of them Roskel T. Goomey (Amber Baker), the exterminator. Baker’s well-developed characterization, enthusiasm, and animation amount to an engaging presence. The eccentric travel writer, Hanula Bing (Julia Carney), and her absent-minded and oblivious mannerisms add to the story’s humor. Even if Carney is not directly involved in the scene, she always does something interesting in the background and stays completely in character. Child star Ronnie Zircon (Matt Miller) acts spoiled perfectly. He whines, screams, and throws tantrums, but underneath the brat he remains a child who just wants to play — whether it is with his Flash action figure or with the six-foot cockroach. The most entertaining, comedic presence onstage though, is Nigel Havic (John Hallemeier). The disoriented old man’s trembling voice and hands, umbrella-swinging, and line delivery are hysterical and keep energy high and laughter flowing.

The fantastic set is very detailed with great props. The elevator’s sliding door is perhaps the most impressive aspect; when Nigel repeatedly presses buttons to activate it, the door’s starting and stopping make it seem real. The lighting is simple but well-done, and flickering and dimming during the thunderstorm brings a nice effect.

Blocking seems to be a problem in this production, because sometimes the actors’ backs are to audience or they stand in front of each other. At the finale, the giant rat in the elevator is only visible to certain audience members because some actors stand in front of it. At times, certain characters are hard to hear or understand, but most of the time everyone speaks loudly and clearly. Mishaps with props distract from the production, but the cast handles them well, and in the end they add to the show’s hilarity.

In this comical and energetic production, the actors bring something different to their characters that give them life. Their constant shenanigans comprise an always entertaining show, and it all starts with a mere cockroach walking into a hotel.

by Melissa Jung of Marquette High School

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