Though it has been years since “Rebel Without a Cause,” the film of postwar teenage alienation, made idols of James Dean, Natalie Wood and Sal Mineo, the story is still relevant today. Area youth are bringing it to stage this weekend with performances tonight and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2:30 p.m. at the Mount Vernon High School Theater at 800 Martinsburg Road. Tickets are available at the door.
The play by James Fuller is directed by Steven Meeker Jr. with stage manager Nora Rice. A number of the performers, Meeker noted, are recent high school graduates and he credits them with dedication beyond graduation.
“Rebel Without a Cause” is the sobering story of family dysfunctions that take a toll on the families’ teenagers. Jim Stark, played by James Dean in the movie, moves to town with his parents and is attracted to Judy Brown, the troubled girlfriend of Buzz, a gang leader. Jim Stark is played by Logan Rennie and Judy Brown is played by Stephanie Fongheiser. Jim is befriended by another troubled character, Plato, played by Andrew Clarkson. But the teenagers’ troubles are the consequences of troubles at home and the audience is shown glimpses of some of the parents’ issues, including Jim’s maternally dominated home. Conflict between Jim and Buzz come to a daredevil confrontation and then retaliation. The unfolding story and conclusion can be seen on stage this weekend.
Meeker and his cast and crew bring the story to stage without scenery and very little in the way of props, and it works. Dusky lighting, a dinner table, the sounds of revving car engines and police sirens, and the audience will know the scene they should be seeing. The “chicken” duel is particularly effective. The play is defined by the dialogue and there are some powerful lines, like when Jim (Rennie) says, “Home isn’t a place; it&rsquos;s a state of mind,” and “Maybe I’ve confused growing away from my parents with growing up.”
While the play is performed entirely by youth, the actors with adult roles present very convincing portrayals. Walker Griggs as Ray, Matthew Christopher as Mr. Stark, Corin Sponsler as Mrs. Stark, and Evan Schorr as Officer Mullen all convince the audience they are the adult characters.
In addition to the cast members named above, the characters also include Doug Reitsma as Buzz, Eleni Teegarden as Mrs. Davis, Graham Hughes as Crunch, Nick Wheeler as Goon, Shawn Meeker as Moose, Lily McBride as Helen, Allison Glass as Millie, Kerstin Glachs as Grandma, Cassidy Noonen as Belle, Rachel Downey as Miss Hannighton, Johnson Cochran as Mr. Brown, Staci Bennington as Mrs. Brown, Olivia Dillon as Lecturer, John Kolberg as Officer One, Thomas Rice as Officer Two and Tyrynn Arrington as Gang Member.
Meeker directs with a passion for realizing all of the participants’ potential. He is a 2012 graduate of Mount Vernon High School and has been active in performing and directing for years. He intends to attend New York University to study directing.