Washington captures holiday spirit in My Three Angels

By Pamela Rosen
Staff Writer

Washington High School’s production of My Three Angels has a lot of heart—both in the story, and in the cast. This offbeat Christmas story takes place in 1910 in French Guiana, where the Ducotels, a family of French ex-pats, try to eke out a living as merchants on the steamy colony. They share their tropical paradise with transported French convicts, and the prison system permits the convicts to serve as manual laborers for the citizens. It’s a society where citizens mingle freely and without much fear with convicted felons. My Three Angels makes the audience consider (and reconsider) their own interpretation of morality and justice.  If that doesn’t sound like lovely holiday fare, think again.

At the beginning of the play, we meet the Ducotels—Felix, an incompetent businessman with more heart than business sense. He’s running the family’s store into the ground by offering too much credit, losing inventory, and shoddy bookkeeping. His wife, Emilie, puts on a brave face.  Finally, there’s Marie Louise, the Ducotel’s young daughter, a romantic in love with the timid and naïve Paul, a man above her station but below her quality. Paul is about to visit Marie Louise to break the news to her he’s going to marry someone else.

On Christmas Eve, all the Ducotels stand on the verge of ruin. Coming ashore with Paul is Felix’s wealthy and unpleasant cousin, Henri Trochard, who’s bringing more bad news: he’s been financing the Ducotel’s business, and he’s about to pull the plug and send the family back to France, penniless.

That’s when three convict workers, who’ve been working on the Ducotel’s roof, get involved. Felix has kindly invited the convict laborers to spend Christmas with the Ducotels, and the prisoners-- Joseph, Jules, and Alfred— decide to repay their host’s kindness by solving all their problems for them. The Ducotels find their Angels charming and magical, as one by one, their problems disappear. What they choose not to see is the method to their magic—after all, these are convicted felons with no chance of reprieve, nothing to lose, and a sense of island prison justice all their own, where they serve as judge, jury, and executioner.

As the Ducotels, Nick Inman is adorable as Felix in his spats and frock coat. Director Matt Ballin skillfully took Inman’s inherent cuteness and added it to Felix’s bumbling charm. Even when he’s succumbing to the temptation of creative accounting and allowing the thief Joseph to cook his books, you can’t help rooting for him. Jordyn Morgan displays a stiff-upper-lip maturity as Emilie, and Jessica Watson is a storybook fresh-faced ingénue as Marie Louise (though in the small Husky Theatre, where every detail is visible, she should check some decidedly 2012 accessories, like neon blue nail polish, before stepping into 1910.)

The real highlights of the show are the performances of the three young actors playing the Angels. Andrew Del Fierro gives a surprisingly mature performance as the philosophical murderer Jules, a man who has accepted his fate and deeds with grace and serenity. Andrew’s dreamy-eyed expression draws the audience into Jules’ longing for romance and into the calm bubble he’s created for himself to survive his real-life hellish existence. Jace Michael’s smooth-talking Joseph is a mathematical genius who misses the finer things in life; the enjoyment he gets from the smallest pleasures radiates to the back row. Most complicated of all is the role of Alfred, and Christopher LaBarbera brings out Alfred’s outrage and feelings of injustice in a more subtle, subdued performance. He’s the most physically violent of the three, and still learning how to manage his anger. Joseph and Jules look after him with almost the same affection with which they care for their pet snake, Adolph. He’s just as vulnerable, and every bit as lethal. Christopher plays these levels well.

Henri Trochard, the villain of the show, is played with evil relish by Vincent Steger. He would be at home in any old-fashioned melodrama, his performance giving a nod to the acting styles in vogue in the early years of Washington High’s 100+ year old drama department. Vendat Bhatt and Kim Harp give nice performances in the supporting roles of the milquetoast Paul and the manipulative customer Madame Parole. Grant Beall as the Lieutenant, tall and handsome and athletic in his white military uniform, is an unexpected Deus ex Machina who brings the only Christmas miracle that the Angels can’t manipulate. He gives the show the punctuation of holiday spirit, a welcome ending after the audience comes to realize they’ve just spent two hours hoping for heinous mischief at Christmas.

The new Husky Theatre
Kudos to the cast and director of My Three Angels. The production itself is a bit of a Christmas miracle. It’s performed in a theatre that was never meant to be a theatre, with some actors who never dreamed they’d get a shot on stage. Against all odds, Washington High School’s small but mighty drama club is bringing a bit of magic to the holiday season.

My Three Angels continues through December 21 at 7 PM at Washington High School’s new Husky Theatre. Tickets are available at www.whstheater.com

Be sure to look at the WHS Performing Arts Center wish list! Click here to see what you can do to help, even if it is small!
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