By Kaitlin Molloy, of Chantilly High School
When a tree falls in a forest and you’re the only one to hear it, would you be believed? Or would you want to keep the secret beauty of solitude to yourself? Langley High School’s reimagined interpretation of awkward reunions and new beginnings, “Hey Stranger,” revealed the duality of isolation while breaking the “excruciatingly mediocre” loneliness of the world.
“Hey Stranger,” recently written by Steph Del Rosso, explored the intricacies of human connection. Years after their messy breakup, Eve and Gideon seemingly drifted apart indefinitely. Until, one late night text from Gideon spurred a reunion video call with the pair having wildly different perceptions of the meeting’s intentions. Gideon’s thinly veiled derogatory commentary and self-centered attitude derail what Eve thought was a relationship rekindling happy hour. Between reliving her heartbreak, an unexpected visit from her tutee, Zoe, and an impromptu dissection of Virginia Woolf’s writings, Eve re-evaluates her feelings about being alone.
Eve (Hannah Toronto) and Gideon (Cole Sitilides) were never fated to be together; empathetic Eve is overshadowed by Gideon’s brutish nature, which he uses to mask his insecurities. Toronto wholeheartedly personifies the pain of rejection and characterizes a young woman realizing her own autonomy. Toronto breathed life into not only her character, but her emotions as well. Her monologues about loneliness became real, transfixing audiences into their own philosophical stupors. Meanwhile, Sitilides cut through Toronto’s serious overtones with brazen conversation, the embodiment of a broken, self-engrossed man. Their complex interactions created a dichotomy demonstrative of a broken relationship.
With all the awkwardness of seeing an ex, Toronto and Sitilides perfectly encapsulated the anxious attempts at new beginnings. Through perfect pacing, the pair navigated anxiety, miscommunication, and harsh realities. Toronto’s quiet hurting was highlighted in every action — a beautiful contrast to Sitilides’ overtly arrogant attitude.
The precocious Zoe (Claire Stephenson) proved a perfect foil to Gideon’s facade of a man. Brash, opinionated, and arrogant, Stephenson prodded at the soft underbelly of Sitilides’ bravado, resulting in a perfect underscoring of their respective worst qualities. Most incredible of all, however, were the complex relationships between the three characters. Working in perfect harmony, the cast produced the effect of a real video call that the audience interrupted.
The technical prowess of the production matched its character counterpart, even adding more to the scene than solely the dialogue. With such a small cast, attention to detail appeared through the set dressing and costumes. Eve possessed a more refined look as if she was going on a date, while Gideon wore business attire as he tried to get clients for his chiropractor business. Items of importance were carefully placed to further illustrate their personalities. Gideon’s wall hangings boasted a painting of his wife and a certificate, while Eve had meaningful pictures and bookcases. Additionally, framing of the pair created a power dynamic descriptive of their relationship — Gideon looking down on Eve.
The use of technical difficulties in a virtual age allowed a variety of lenses to be applied to the production’s overarching theme of isolation. Eve’s monologues about loneliness were met with the disappearance of her castmates, demonstrating the crushing solitude she experienced. This framing allowed her monologues to act as soliloquies that wove the theme throughout the production.
This carefully crafted performance was inspired by the ever-looming loneliness of today. While isolation seems suffocating, it’s important to recognize its beauty in the moment. Langley’s “Hey Stranger” reminded audiences that being alone doesn’t necessarily mean loneliness, but rather an opportunity for reflection.