Family fun to haunt Island

REPORTER FILE PHOTO
The cast of ‘The Addams Family’ creeping around on stage earlier this week.

High School’s production of ‘The Addams Family’ opens April 4. 

They’re creepy and they’re kooky — and they’re coming soon to a theater very near you. 

The Shelter Island High School Drama Club’s play this spring is the classic “The Addams Family.” America’s most beloved dysfunctional clan will be played by students from 8th grade through senior year, opening Thursday, April 4.

Under the direction of John and Anu Kaasik, the Island’s fresh-faced students are transforming themselves into the ghoulish characters that bring this campy comedy to life. It was a challenging choice of a play, Mr. Kaasik noted, since most of these students had not seen the original television series or the movie, that many of the parents and grandparents in the audience will remember. 

“I encouraged them to watch at least a few episodes on YouTube,” Mr. Kaasik said. 

Once they got a sense of the play and its macabre themes, the cast embraced their roles enthusiastically. “I love it,” said Taylor Tybaert, who plays Uncle Fester. “It lets me be very creative.”

Uncle Fester (Taylor Tybaert) sings a haunting refrain.

Senior Michael Payano, who plays Lurch, is appearing in his first school play. He said he watched a few video clips to get an idea of the show. “I like it so far,” he said. “It’s a great experience.”

While waiting for a rehearsal to begin recently, Owen Gibbs (Gomez), Amelia Clark (his wife Morticia) and Franny Regan (their daughter Wednesday) sat quietly talking together in the auditorium seats, looking just like any other average American family. “We’ve really bonded,” said Owen. “We’re together every day.” 

Indeed, Mr. Kaasik agreed that the cast becomes “like a family.”

Director John Kaasik offers professional tips.

David Neese plays Lucas, Wednesday’s love interest. His introduction of his family to Wednesday and her folks has as much chance of going well as “Meet the Parents.”  

Lyng Coyne plays Alice Beineke, Lucas’ mother. Devon Bolton, Mal Beineke, has appeared in the school productions of “Nice Work if You Can Get It” and “Curtains,” like many of his fellow cast members. “This play is way different from what we’ve done before,” he said. “It feels new and fresh.” The role of Mal Beineke is shared with Zebulun Mundy.

The plot includes some mischief from Wednesday’s little brother Pugsley (Nicholas Labrozzi) and Fester calling on the Addams Family Ancestors (Devon Bolton, Emmett Cummings, Myla Dougherty, Mary Gennari, Tyler Gulluscio, Henry Lowell-Liszanckie, Joseph Lupo, Andrea Napoles, Zebulun Mundy, Lily Page, Amelia Reiter, Riley Renault, Bella Springer, Madison Springer, Margaret Schultheis, Lydia Shepherd and Emma Theodoru) to help carry out his lunatic scheme.

With opening night just a couple of weeks away, Mr. Kaasik urged the cast to begin behaving as if the play were actually going on. “When something goes wrong,” he said, “keep going. Ad lib! You can’t fall out of character any more.” 

The Beinekes (Zebulun Mundy and Lyng Coyne) ponder their potential in-laws.

In urging the actors to be louder than many thought they should be, he kept his recommendations in a positive tone, pointing out who were projecting their voices well, not who fell short. The students responded in a similar vein, giving a shout-out to their peers who did well. Mr. Kaasik said that is an essential quality he seeks to foster during each production. Over more than a dozen years when he and his wife, Anu, have coached these performances, he said he has encouraged the students to look out for each other and be supportive: “I tell them that negativity is the enemy of art.”

The cast has an extended circle of advisers helping polish their performances. Laura Dickerson is the choreographer and Libby Lyszanckie, a school alumna who appeared in past shows, is acting as the show’s vocal coach. 

On a recent rehearsal night, Mr. Kaasik shared with his cast the news that a play he had written, “The Assassin’s New Friend,” was opening that night in Florida, drawing an enthusiastic round of applause. 

Although some of the students say they have no plans to continue in drama after high school, at least two cast members admit they’ve been bitten by the acting bug. Amelia Reiter, an 11th grader who plays an Ancestor, and Jennifer Lupo, also an 11th grader, who plays Grandma, say they hope to continue in theater in the future. Although Grandma is described in the play as spending most of her time in the attic, Jennifer said she can be seen in “a lot of Act I and the end of Act II.” And both girls will likely be seen in lots of future productions, if they follow their aspirations.

Morticia (Amelia Clark) sings ‘Death is Just Around the Corner.’

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