Sierra Friday excels as the director of The Princess Bride for Topanga Youth Services.
Even at 15, Sierra Friday is no stranger to the theater, and she learned from the best in the Canyon, having grown up in theater at the Theatricum Botanicum with Ellen Geer.
Now, at Topanga Youth Services (TYS) and its director, Karen Cooke, she has completed her directorial debut of “The Princess Bride” on Nov. 26-27 for the TYS and it was a hit.
Actors in the Sunday matinee performed a warm, clever, suspenseful, and, yes, funny adaptation of the story by the legendary William Goldman.
As the curtain opens on Act 1, we were introduced to an ailing kid (a delightful Jude Klemp) who was being babysat by his loving Grandpa, played by a “gruff” Henri Billings. Grandpa starts reading to the kid from a classic storybook, The Princess Bride, and the story comes to life.
The young Westley, played by the handsome and brave Caleb Briskman, is in love with Princess Buttercup, played by the lovely Mila Chapman, who doesn’t appear to return his love, so he sails off to shores unknown and is reported to have been lost at sea.
Five years later, the evil Prince Humperdinck (a boo and a hiss to the excellent Cooper Boynton) asks for Buttercup’s hand in marriage. Nothing could be more repugnant to her, as she still believes her one true love will always return, so she challenges the evil Prince in a series of deceptions to delay the wedding.
Meanwhile, disguised as the Dread Pirate Roberts, Westley is desperate to reach Princess Buttercup, save her from Humperdinck, and declare his love for her.
Delaying his progress is an eccentric trio of circus folk—the giant Fezzik (the impressive Xavier Cornell), Inigo Montoya (beautifully played by Elias Klemp with crack fencing skills) and the utterly hilarious Vizzini (River Roberts, who has a real future in showbiz).
It must be said that Fencing Choreographer, Brandon Pugmire, trained Briskman and Klemp in the most chilling and believable stage combat that added considerably to the play.
The cast was wonderful as each actor provided their own funny and clever interjections and physical humor—Kenza Carolan as Count Rugen; Liam Williams as Miracle Max; Zoe Winston as Valerie; Tobey Chapman as the amusing Albino; Arden Core as Yellin; Nico Bennassar as Wellin; Chloe Gaines as Queen Isabella; Lukas Perttula as King Lotharon; Maya Demontreux as the Mother and Mia Klemp put in hilarious performances as the Clergy, as did Lola Momoa as the Ancient.
The Citizens of Florin and the Ensemble enhanced the show with their presence—Lilly O’Connor; Rafaella Kistler; Birdie Martin; Johanna O’Connor and Phoebe Krull. The Brute Squad and Guards were played by Kano Gordon and Sawyer Traband. Last, but not least, the horrible, scary and disturbing “Rodents of Unusual Size” were well played by Julian Najah, Jaz Bennassar, and Teo Krull.
No play goes up without the help of the essential backstage crew. Along with producer Karen Cooke, kudos go to production coordinators Kamakshi Hart, Kelly Constantine, and Will Friday. Jewels Nation was an outstanding stage manager and one must give a special shout out to Dana Briskman, Faye Gaines, and Jenni Klemp for the excellent costumes. Finally, let’s not forget the Props by Claire Chapman, Set Design by Kerry Bennassar and Will Friday, Lights by Tom Mitchell, and Sound by Mitchell, Brian Chapman, and Hutch Harrington.
The Princess Bride was another fabulous TYS show and we must give the highest praise to Sierra Friday, who will succeed in whatever she puts her hand to—let’s hope she sticks with Theater. Brava!
TOPANGA YOUTH SERVICES (TYS) provides creative enrichment and community service for youths from sixth grade through high school for little or no charge. Participants can attend monthly events, community service outings, field trips, and participate in performances, talent showcases, and other comprehensive activities. It aspires to instill teamwork, behavior skills, looking at things creatively, breaking inhibitions, confidence, enrichment of the surrounding community, equality, and courage in a safe and non-judgmental environment. Karen Cooke, Director.