REVIEW: Masquers conquer Herculean task of taking fall drama online

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Despite the hold on live performances, Masquers was able to pull off a stellar performance of “The Greek Mythology Olympiaganza”.

By Isabelle Farina, Photo and Advertising Editor

After COVID-19 safety precautions led to the unfortunate occurrence of West Essex’s spring musical “Mamma Mia!” being cancelled on opening night last spring, the Masquers, led by director Brittany Hernandez, did not let the coronavirus diminish their spirit. In fact, they used this setback to inspire their energy to put into their first performance for 2020-2021, “The Greek Mythology Olympiaganza.” This show was meticulously practiced, filmed and produced entirely remotely, and the video streamed online Jan. 22 and 23. Blending lighthearted humor with savvy editing, the Masquers’ hard work and dedication was evident through a creative performance that takes a traditional stageplay and adapts it believably and successfully to online video.

The show models a Zoom call between two student narrators, Chloe Bonaguide and Grant King, providing a class presentation of their interpretation of amusing, yet wildly unrealistic, “truths” behind classic Greek mythology tales. These truths delved into humorous discussions of eating babies and “Zeus knows what.”

Chloe and Grant did an exceptional job with their roles, especially considering the lengthy number of lines they needed to rehearse as the leads of the two-hour production. Comedy doesn’t come easy, especially when timing is so key and much of their work was recorded separately, but their banter kept the show’s energy going. The cast of characters was vast (a virtual pantheon — quite literally!), but Colin Cummings and Hudson King deserve special shoutouts for nailing their hilarious roles of Uranus and Zeus, bringing smiles to viewers’ faces with their jokes. The Masquers even managed to create thematic costumes and makeup looks to set the mythological tone from the comfort of their own homes. Each cast member was responsible for their own backgrounds, makeup, costuming and props.

Although in-person interaction and audience reaction were unattainable components of this year’s show, the cast did an excellent job demonstrating the chemistry needed to keep the audience engaged. Even by mirroring a Zoom meeting, it felt as if the characters were actually talking to each other through a combination of clever editing and practiced timing.  

The technological strings that had to be pulled to get a show like “Greek” off the ground sound like one of the Labors of Hercules all by itself. After working together for online practices in Zoom, each individual performer had to go home and record their own parts alone. Masquers technical editor Patrick McGlynn captured the essence of dramatic stage directions by framing each character’s Zoom screen and getting them to pop in and out at key moments to enhance the comedic effect of their lines. Besides a handful of editing and framing mishaps here and there, the editing was super-smooth and the video and audio quality was top notch, including the use of sound effects.

“Greek” hits its marks and serves as a testament to the passion and enthusiasm of all of the Masquers performers, who dealt admirably with a very unfamiliar acting environment. And Hernandez deserves a seat on Mount Olympus for keeping students’ spirits up and overcoming the obstacles brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Masquers managed to stage an uplifting and entertaining show at a time when comedy felt like something we could all use these days.