Annie might just be having the worst day of her life. With fifteen unscheduled actors in the lobby of her recording studio, a missing husband-slash-coworker, and a constant stream of personal phone calls, it’ll be a miracle if she survives until the end of the day.
“Vocal Work,” a play by Ed Monk, was produced by McLean High School as a submission for the Virginia High School League — a one-act-play competition in which students must set up the stage, perform, and strike their set all within a given time limit. The story follows the aforementioned Annie, who must navigate the ups and downs of managing her recording studio, which specializes in radio ad slots.
The play was performed mostly in person, with virtual actors performing via Zoom and projected onto a screen hanging just over the stage. The performers have adapted the show somewhat in order to set it during the Covid-19 pandemic – outside of the obvious, like masks and social distancing, characters also carried around hand sanitizer, and took the time to disinfect equipment before using it. These small details called attention to the current state of the world, without distracting from the play as a whole.
The supporting cast of voice actors who filtered in and out of the studio all had their moments to shine. Standout performances included Avery Versaw as Meg, a young, idealistic (if not naive) performer who has yet to learn the pecking order of the acting world. From the moment she stepped onstage, Versaw captured the audience’s hearts with her undeniable enthusiasm and all-too-relatable awkwardness as she attempted to fit in with the older actresses she admired. Also notable was Lyssa Bass in the role of Alex – a nineteen-year-old who might just be the worst voice actor to grace the halls of the recording studio. Her exaggeratedly stilted monotone was remarkably entertaining, and her interactions with her fellow performers offered plenty of endearing moments.
But at the heart of the show were Chloe Lahr and Will Chapman as Annie, the frazzled manager, and Phil, the laid-back sound guy. Lahr’s performance had a constant air of frustration simmering under the surface, finally boiling over in a satisfying moment of catharsis as she let out her bottled-up feelings on the piles of decisions she’d been laboring under. Chapman, on the other hand, presented a perfect foil to Lahr’s uptight, professional persona — his relaxed and comfortable state as Phil contrasted and highlighted the immense stress of Lahr’s position.
The set of the performance (constructed by Vivian Kreeb) was relatively simple, considering that it had to be assembled in about two minutes onstage. Consisting of interlocking flats, set on wheels to allow for ease of movement, the scene’s small details (such as a checkered dartboard and a door plastered with posters) brought a certain amount of personality to the stage.
McLean High School described the theme of their show as follows: “As long as we are doing something we love, the hardships are worth it.” And these students certainly loved this production. With strong actors and a believable world, Vocal Work is a show one won’t want to miss.