By Maura Pelczynski of Chantilly High School
One too many sleepless nights can be a sign of struggle. When internal and external problems plague your mind to the point where you can’t even shut your eyes, it’s finally time to admit to yourself that you need help. That’s what Victoria Emerson discovered in Riverside High School’s student-written play, Out of My Mind.
Break-ups, bad parents, and boastful brothers are all too familiar to cinematographer Victoria Emerson (played by Olivia Miniuk). After a friend recommends their therapist to Victoria, they begin a journey of self-examination and discovery. Under the guidance of their new therapist, Benny Rogers (played by Rohan Jaiswal), Victoria unpacks where her issues with relationships and abandonment stem from and uses each session as a chance to grow from her past.
Olivia Miniuk did an excellent job playing the jaded Victoria, handling the many highs and lows of the character’s emotional state with a versatile range. Balanced nicely against their peaks and valleys was the calming and steady river of Rohan Jaiswal’s Benny. With a soothing tone, and comforting affirmations, Jaiswal brought a tranquil energy perfect for portraying a therapist. Framing Victoria’s character arc were their boyfriends from many failed relationships. From the hostile Keith Douglass (played by Ryder Quiggle) to the eccentric musician Connor Jameson (played by Zach Robinson), to the nerdy Oliver (played by Aadi Sinha). Each actor brilliantly evoked their character’s flaws and quirks, creating entertaining conflict when paired in a relationship with Victoria.
Out of My Mind was performed and filmed virtually and played well to the limitations and virtues of the format. Despite lacking a set, attention to background detail created clear settings. Using both locations around the actors’ homes and virtual backgrounds, the environments always felt appropriate for any scene or character. Victoria’s mom (played by Danielle Webb) always appeared in different locations, busy with cooking, cleaning, or painting, which contrasted nicely against Victoria’s dad (played by Alex Footen) and their single static office. Thanks to the continuity team (Alex Footen and Natalia Fernandez-Davila Parades), each scene was well lit, and every actor was audible.
The show was a collaborative, student-driven, effort. Each aspect of the production was created by the cast. The writers (Aadi Sinha, Rohan Jaiswal, Hailee Blubaugh, Zach Robinson) did an excellent job keeping each character’s dialogue unique and consistent. The show had excellent pacing. Every scene built up to grand reveals in time with Victoria’s personal revelations. The directing team (Rohan Jaiswall, Olivia Miniuk, Gabi David) truly helped bring the script to life with meticulous care for the look of the show. Costumes and makeup were used to separate scenes from each other and distinguish a cohesive timeline.
Altogether, Out of My Mind encouraged seeking guidance from others, as well as finding ways to help yourself. Riverside’s student-written play was a comforting exploration of mental health and healing from the past. The show affirmed that relationships are meant to enrich your life, not define them. Sometimes, just knowing you are enough can help you shut your tired eyes and get some well-deserved rest.
[This review of the May 15 performance at Riverside High School is part of a series published in a partnership between Loudoun Now andThe Cappies, a writing and awards program that trains high school theater and journalism students to be expert writers, critical thinkers, and leaders.]