Review: Dominion High School’s Once on This Island

By Zoe Brennan., Westfield High School

What would you be willing to do for love? Would you stare down the God of death for a shot at finding that special someone? Dominion High School’s Production of Once on This Island tells the story of Ti Moune, a girl who did exactly that, and ended up facing the consequences. 

The show follows Ti Moune through a series of events reminiscent of a fairy tale. A gorgeous stranger crashes his car on a road right outside of her village, and, instantly enamored with him, Ti Moune nurses him back to health. In doing so, she angers her parents, the rigid classists of the French Antilles, and even the Gods themselves.

Once on This island was written by Lynn Ahrens, composed by Stephen Flaherty, and was originally performed on Broadway in 1990 at the Booth Theater. Since then, it’s been performed all over the world and won countless awards. It’s difficult to do such a decorated show justice, but Dominion rose to the challenge, putting on a production filled to the brim with dynamic songs and evocative scenes.

Ti Moune was played by Katy Price, who delivered a performance that expertly explored Ti Moune’s devotion to her family, religion, and eventually to Daniel. Her introduction in “Waiting for Life” was filled with all the enthusiasm and naivete that the character demanded. Chase Bochenek, who played Daniel, handled his character’s inner struggle between love and tradition captivatingly, most clearly through his deliberations in “Some Girls.”

The gods are some of Once on This Island’s most important characters, and this fact is distinctly represented in Dominion’s production as they never left the stage. Instead, the gods were seated on a terraced set for the entire show, constantly watching over every scene. Agwe, (Naomi Gorbach,) was constantly doing a subtle dance reminiscent of ocean waves and enthralled the audience with their haunting vocals during “Rain.” Asaka (Lilly Hurtado) added an exuberant touch of comic relief during “Mama Will Provide,” complementing Ti Moune’s more childish attitude perfectly. Erzulie (Madhya Clinch) carried one of the show’s more somber moments with her airy vocals in “The Human Heart,” and Papa Ge (Lareina Allred) was portrayed with such unnerving cruelty that each sentence Allred uttered sent a chill down the audience’s spines.

The technical aspects of Dominion’s production were consistently impressive, but one element that stood out was the show’s special effects. Conceptualized by Maguire Crowe, Lareina Allred, Ella Greer, and Lilly Hurtado, the performance boasted real onstage rainfall and a tree whose branches grew seemingly by themselves, which in tandem with the vibrance of the set (Lareina Allred, Maguire Crowe, Lilly Hurtado,) the realism of the lighting (Ethan Mengers, Avery Deaton, Cate Sanzano, Trisha Cherian) and the intricacy of the costumes (Emma Mitchell, Elizabeth Hernandez Rivera, Leslie Espinoza Ramirez,) made the auditorium, truly, feel like the “Jewel of the Antilles.”

Our lives become the stories we weave. This message was echoed throughout every single sun-soaked scene in Dominion’s performance of Once on This Island and is an adage as powerful as death … or, more aptly, as powerful as love.

[This review of the April 1performance of Once on This Island at Dominion High School is part of a series published in a partnership between Loudoun Now and The Cappies, a writing and awards program that trains high school theater and journalism students to be expert writers, critical thinkers, and leaders.]

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