top of page

Bonnie & Clyde at Haddonfield Plays & Players will be the Ride of Your Life!

by M. Smith


The date is March 8, 2024, and Haddonfield Plays and Players’ rendition of Bonnie & Clyde by Frank Wildhorn, Ivan Menchel, and Don Black is taking the stage for opening night. Upon entering the space you are greeted by welcoming faces and the excited buzz of anticipating audience members to see the beauty that is theatre. Taking your seat you see the artistic work of the show’s Set Designer, Donald Swenson, who has created a two-leveled space with the craftsmanship that effectively teleports you into the time and location of the world you’re going to see. This accompanied with the static of time-period music through Sound Designer/Audio Technician, Kalman Dunne, brings you into the space and you feel that thrill of getting to see art come to life continue to expand. You ask yourself, “What have Director Arielle Sosland & Associate Director Lizzie Newcomb Gumula got in store?” You have no more time to continue this internal conversation as the lights have come up and the show has begun. One that surely, will blow you away.


The lights, designed by Eric Baker and operated by Omaira Parilla-Dunner, effectively transport the audience to the early 30’s. Here, the audience is able to get a brief glimpse of the early life of Bonnie (played by Addison Michaela Clark) & Clyde (played by AJ Klein)  in the first scene through the talent of Ada Marano as Young Bonnie & Nathan Jewell as Young Clyde. Marano brings the confident dreamer that is Bonnie Parker while Jewell simultaneously displays the daring nature that encapsulates Clyde Barrow. Marano and Jewell worked beautifully together and were a great compliment as the show shifts to focus on their adult selves played by Addison Michaela Clark and AJ Klein for whom the show centers. Clark too brings this same youthful confidence and hopeful dreamer to Bonnie that makes the audience hope with her of being able to see her on the big screen. Klein’s depiction of Clyde continues to portray his sense of finding the finer things in life no matter the cost. This connection with the characters also stemmed from the creative choices made by Props Master Timmy Kuhn was integral in depicting the characters and having their props each have special meaning and connection within the piece. Clark & Klein’s connection on stage is palpable from even that first moment when their character’s have not canonically met yet in the world of this musical. As a result of their chemistry and work of Intimacy Coach, Lizzie Gumula, the love between these characters comes naturally and the audience becomes ensnared in what will inevitably be the tragedy that awaits these two dreamers.


Alongside the dreamers Bonnie & Clyde, the parental love that persists throughout the show is beautifully and heartbreakingly portrayed by Kristine Bonaventura as Emma Parker, Cassie Mateo as Cumie Barrow, and Joe Moschella as Henry Barrow. These actors give the audience the deep rooted love that these parents have for their children and portray the heartache of a parent left-behind. This is highlighted in two moments throughout this show during a reunion with Bonnie (Clark) and Emma (Bonaventura) that brought the audience to tears as a result of the essential pacing that is needed in moments like this one. We see Emma shift from a confident, loving mother with comedic genius to a mother who is just as loving, but now is terrified of what horrible news could come to her at any moment. Furthermore, we see how continuous strain, heartbreak and their effects on parents like Cumie (Mateo) and Henry (Moschella) who are continuously left behind by Clyde (Klein) affect their relationship and how they move forward. Their interactions were purposefully driven by their connections with each other as well as their powerful deliveries and motivations throughout this production. 


While  audiences await for a tragic story to unfold, they are instead brought into the homey and comfortable feeling that comes with being in Blanche Barrow’s (Rachel Maselek) salon. We see the space come to life as the talented stage management team composed of Stage Manager, Tara Romanelli, and Assistant Stage Managers, Chris Grande and Nicole Plasket, efficiently shift the space in effective ways to keep the world flowing throughout. This is a space of peace as you see Blanche’s comfortability shine in the space and being in her element to have a semblance of what she hopes to have in an ordinary life. This ordinary life, however, is thrown into unbalance as Buck Barrow (Evan Harris), has once again gotten himself into trouble. Similar to Clark and Klein’s chemistry as Bonnie & Clyde, Maselek and Harris’ connection is just as beautiful and engaging. The audience continues to see these two head-over-heels in love and similar to magnets, their bond is everlasting. In the salon as Buck struggles with the idea of turning himself back in, the incredible salon actors who bring the liveliness and style to their characters are phenomenal to the umpteenth degree. Salon goers played by Natalie Wrigley, Colleen Knoblock, and  Cassie Mateo truly brought in the Texan Southern charm that is typically seen in these moments. With their Southern Texan Charm and accents through Dialect Coach, Jill Aebli, these salon goers were engaging through and through and kept the tight knit vibes of a southern salon. Through their beautifully crafted and designed costumes by Costume Designer, Ryan PJ Mulholland, as well as the masterful wigs and wig curlers by Wig Designer/Assistant Costumer, Lauren Patanovich, the audience was full of laughter and enjoyment throughout this entire scene. This goes hand-in-hand with the tremendous vocal direction by Vocal Director Kristy Joe Slough, as Wrigley, Knoblock, and Mateo hit the notes and harmonies beautifully and brought the exciting energy that makes their number so fantastic! 


While the scene in Blanche’s salon is one that is filled with positivity, the underlying theme of responsibility to religion and law is discernible in numerous ways. In terms of the former, the audience is once again shifted beautifully thanks to the vocal direction of Kristy Joe Slough and choreography by Shaun Furter, which takes us to what would be a Sunday sermon. This immersion into the gospel scene is highlighted by the powerful delivery of the Preacher, played by Christian Malazzo, and the ensemble support (including actors  Meg  Bryan, Adam Johnson, Colleen Knoblock, Cassie  Matteo, Joe Moschella, William Reid, and Natalie Wrigley) in choral notes and harmonies that rang throughout the theatre. This connection to religion is one that is providing an escape for our characters in a world where one seems to be eternally trapped, and this powerful message is one that is able to be confirmed as a result of the ensemble and Malazzo’s delivery. 


In contrast with the religious themes in the show, the theme of justice in this work is one that is a powerful commentary on the inability to escape it. In the world of Bonnie & Clyde, we see the juxtaposition of the corruption of what is considered justice and the idea of what justice means. Through songs such as “Made in America” and characters like the guard played by William Reid, audiences see the underlying causes of the definition of justice and the cruelty that can come with it and the unwillingness to understand the deeper meaning behind it. Through Reid’s demeanor and strong choices in these moments and interactions on stage, the audience is brought into the cruel system that is operating and dealing what they define as  justice. This is in tandem with what is considered justice by individuals and how they continue to conflict with each other throughout this show, leading to the inevitable tragedy to come. For example,  Sherrif Schmid (Glen Funkhouser) and Officer Ted Hinton’s (Vincent DeMeo) definition of justice slowly morphs from bringing Clyde into jail to one where it is only considered justice if he is dead. This contradicts Clyde’s ideas of justice as he reflects on his own childhood and how economic struggles led him down this path. This contradicting idea of justice between Clyde and the law leads to intense standoffs that were excellently choreographed and staged by Fight & Weapons Choreographers Dominic Ciarrochi & Sean McGarry. As audiences are aware, these standoffs only last so long before justice is officially considered served. The show ends by highlighting the tragic end of two dreamers and lovers, and the silence in the audience is tangible. Then comes the sound of raining applause as a show of artistic excellence and beauty comes to its conclusion.


The date is March 8, 2024. You sit in your seat as the lights go down on the phenomenal actors that stand before you. The actors return to the wings as you hear the roaring applause that follows them out. You hear the same buzz that you heard when you entered, but now it is in reflection about the art that everyone has just witnessed. It is about any and every aspect of the show, with only highlights and positivity to be heard. You enter the lobby and see the actors animatedly chatting with fans, friends, and family as they are flooded with the love and appreciation that they deserve. You think to yourself as you walk out of  Haddonfield Plays & Players, “That was the perfect way to spend my night!”


Bonnie & Clyde runs Thursdays (8:00 pm) , Fridays (8:00 pm), Saturdays (3:00 pm, 8:00 pm), and Sundays (3:00 pm) from now until March 23! Tickets can be purchased here: https://haddonfieldplaysandplayers.csstix.com/event-details.php?e=506



Commentaires


Latest Posts
bottom of page