On Friday and Saturday, December 7th and 8th, the Walpole High auditorium transformed into an Upstate New York town set in th 1890’s to present “Love Rides the Rails (or, Will the Mail Train Run Tonight?)” The production, full of heroes, villains, dance hall girls and even a grandmother, surprised the audience with its suspenseful conflict.
The play follows the scheming of villain Simon Darkway (junior Mike McKeon) as he tries to gain control of the Walker Valley Pine Bush and Pacific Railroad. Darkway visits the Widow Hopewell (sophomore Ariana Chariton) to express his interest in the railroad but, after being rejected the sale, falls in love with her daughter Prudence Hopewell (senior Jess McNamara). The rest of the production follows his quest to not only steal the railroad but win the leading lady. Prudence, however, plans on marrying Truman Pendennis (senior Evan Parsons) until Darkway’s sceheming gets in the way. Darkway enlists the help of Dirk Sneath (senior Tommy Buckley) and Carlotta Cortez (sophomore Jenny Hunt) to overtake the railroad; if no mail train runs for 48 hours, the railroad will go up for sale. Truman, who is also the general manager of the railroad, falls into Simon’s plans and gets incredibly drunk to anger the workers and they eventually ban together against him. Carlotta, all the while trying to win over Simon as her own, temps a drunk Truman as part of the plan and it proves to be a success: upon finding him there, Prudence promptly ends the engagement. Yet, after discovering that Simon really does not love her, Carlotta turns against him and helps Truman sober up. During the suspenseful ending, Truman ends up tied to the tracks by the hands of Dirk and Simon; yet, Prudence comes to save the day by stopping the train from running and freeing him. With everyone back on his side, Truman defeats Dirk and Simon in a final fight and the two are are tied to the train in order to pull it through the valley.
The production proved to be a success with attritubutes to the talented actors, the lighting and sound, and the props and costumes that gave the stage a 1890’s feel. McKeon stood out as the villain with his evil enthusiasm and a lot of maniacal laughs to end scenes; he also sang a song about poisoning pidgeons. Parsons performed a very believable drunk man and won the audience over as the leading man. McNamara, likewise, played a successful heroine up until the very end when she gave up her red skirt to provide a red sign to stop the train. The acting in general pleased the audience; Hunt and Buckley exceptionally portrayed the villain sidekicks, and junior Rory Hardiman shone as the right hand man to Pendennis, Harold Stanfast. The most exciting scenes took place in the Paradise Cafe, where all of the railroad workers (including junior Michael Griffin, who earned a lot of laughs from the audience) and the dance hall girls (who were led in a singing and dancing number by sophomore Katie Trudell) gathered together.
Having a setting on a railroad, the play required a lot of unique light and sound effects that were managed by juniors Hannah Mullen and Montana Gulbrand respectively. The success of the play can partially be attributed to the effects in the booth, but also those on the stage that worked between scenes to quickly set up the next. Once again, Theatre Club Advisor and Director Mr. James D’Attilio and the Walpole High students presented a successful show. “I think the producion went pretty well; there were a lot of surprises but I feel like everyone involved handled these situations very well,” said McKeon. The Walpole High Drama Club is now moving on towards the highly anticipated winter musical, the Seussical. “I’m excited to move on to the musical,” said McKeon; “I think we all have high expectations for that production.”