Everything about this production of The Talented Mr Ripley saw Oxford High School, as part of the American High School Theatre Festival, excels. It was nothing short of brilliant and the audience hung on the actors’ every word, despite the late night showing.
It was extremely evident that every decision had been made in a carefully considered way and much praise must go to the directors for this. The staging was particularly inventive given the restrictions that the festival places on time, with a variety of trunks and crates used to create such diverse scenes as hotel rooms, apartments, airports, train stations, and boats with remarkable effect. The smoothly choreographed nature of the scene changes turned them from what could be a laboured process into the beautiful creation of a new setting and was a joy to watch.
The stage was continually washed with a blue light to indicate the pervading influence of the sea, a cause of Ripley’s downfall, which was a brilliant touch. This was then mirrored in every other detail from the trunks to an actor’s tie and a pair of shoes, and finally to a plethora of umbrellas that form a key part of an early scene. The use of blue fabric to create the sea, rain, and tears was both effective and extremely slick. A technique that could have looked amateur if done poorly instead was the focal point for dance-like movements, with the fabric engulfing the large space of the stage quite brilliantly.
The acting was exquisite. Colin Schultz and Martin Bodenheimer deserve particular mention for alternating the extremely demanding roles of Ripley and Rickie Greenleaf during the course of the run, which is quite an undertaking. I wish I could watch the show again with the roles reversed just to feel like I had fully experienced their production. Schultz, as Ripley, was outstanding, carefully documenting the descent of his character from charming and enigmatic to tortured and dangerous. His commitment to the show was of the highest standard; he never once left the stage and fully embodied his challenging role. These two are stars in the making, names to watch out for in the future. But just remember, you read it here first.