Rope swings into opening night

The new student-led theater production chills audiences


Philip Rotondo

Charles Granillo, played by Noah Chlan, desperately pushes the chest containing the body of his murder victim.

TheatreMcLean killed on its opening night of Rope, a brand new blackbox drama created entirely by theater students. The show tells the story of cold-blooded murder and the events that follow in its wake.

“It’s about two young men who have killed a man for purely the intellectual thrill of it,” junior Noah Chlan, who played murderer Charles Granillo, said. “They put his body in a box and decided to have a dinner party with the family of the guy they killed just to show that they are superior. As the show goes on, some of the dinner party guests start to get closer to realizing that there is a body in the chest and one of the murderers, my character, becomes more nervous.”

The new production’s opening night was a success, garnering applause from its tightly-packed audience of McLean students and families. With zero budget and just a month to rehearse, the cast managed to bring a hit to the stage.

“The main difference between this show and other shows at McLean is that we had a very small cast and crew, very limited time, and really no budget,” said junior Ava Stewart, who played Rupert Fadell. “It was definitely difficult to pull off but I think that it adds to the connection we had to the project as it came completely from our own hard work and passion.

With a minimalistic set design, the show relied on the emotional performances of its cast, which featured some of McLean’s best and brightest acting talents.

“I was telling the cast backstage before they went on not even that I was proud of them, but that I was floored by them,” Abba said. “I was floored by the fact that I had not seen a lot of them act before and then they came in and did such a fantastic job on this run tonight. We had a couple slips here and there, but the magical thing about it was every single time the actors found their footing or the tech found their footing and we pushed forward.”

Rope’s cast and crew was full of first-timers. The show was Chlan’s first time playing a solely spoken role, previously having been cast in several TheatreMcLean musicals.

“I definitely had to focus and really stress my lines a lot,” Chlan said. “My classmates did have to focus on monologues more than I did, so I was fortunate [in that respect], and they did wonderful monologues. You have to put more emphasis on certain words and really figure out what you’re saying.”

Rope gave Aldo Silva-Suarez, who played also-murderer Wyndham Brandon, his first ever lead role.

“I auditioned for Sir Johnstone Kentley and the director, Jack Abba, had me read for Brandon, the main lead,” Aldo said. “I thought nothing of it, and then later that night, the cast list came out and I was the lead role. I was shocked and excited.”

Also, Rope is TheatreMcLean’s first ever student-directed show under the direction of junior Jackie House and senior Jack Abba. For the cast and crew, the show was an enormous growth experience.

“I learned so much about myself and how I work and think just directing it,” Abba said. “I’ve seen [the cast] grow as performers and people while in the rehearsal room.”

The show was put on at the request of Abba, who wanted to bring a new creative dimension to TheatreMcLean. He convinced program director Philip Reid to hold one more show after Sketch Fest, an annual showing of student-written plays, was canceled due to time constraints.

“I originally had the idea because all the shows we were doing, while so much fun to do, felt like we were creating them in a competitive environment. I wanted to create an environment that was all about just creating something together and having a creative process,” Abba said. “Sort of like being in a band, everyone’s having ideas. All of us were shouting ideas out and just having a time together. It really enforced the love I have for theater.”

Of course, putting on a show without the Reid’s direction had its challenges.

“There were some hiccups that came along with not having as much official power or authority that comes with having a director that works at the school,” Stewart said. “There were days when a rehearsal would get canceled because we lost the space, or times were we did not have access to the technical things we wanted.”

The student-directed nature of the show ultimately helped build an atmosphere that lifted up everyone involved in its production.

“[Rope] was exciting because for people who don’t come out to auditions for other shows or who haven’t been able to run tech for shows but who want to, student directed pieces are a great place for them to start and get some experience,” Abba said. “Specifically with this show, I got to know a bunch of people that I didn’t really know and got to know the talents of a lot of people I didn’t know. It puts a lot of people into the spotlight.”

Abba sees Rope as an exercise in creative discovery, and hopes it can motivate others to go out and create themselves.

“The biggest takeaway that I would want from people who come to see the show, regardless of their feelings on it, is that they can make whatever they want,” Abba said. “Even if no one else sees it, making it for yourself reveals more to you about yourself than you ever thought you would know.”

Rope’s final showing will be on Thursday, June 15th. Seats are available on a first come, first served basis. Doors open at 6:30 PM and the show starts at 7:00 PM.