RUMFORD — “Flowers for Algernon” is not the typical feel-good play for high school students. It explores how the mentally challenged are mistreated and how past experiences shape the present. Nevertheless, the Mountain Valley High School theater arts students took on the challenge.

The play is about a man, Charlie Gordon, who is mentally challenged with a low IQ. His teacher recommends him for an experimental surgery to improve his intelligence. The surgery has already been performed on a mouse named Algernon. Charlie has the surgery and gradually becomes a genius. However, as Algernon gradually declines and dies, Charlie realizes he will suffer a similar fate.

Senior Tucker Phelps played the difficult part of Charlie.

He explained, “Playing Charlie was one of the hardest roles I have taken on. It was hard to play a slow person, but what was even harder was acting out the transition between ‘moron’ Charlie and ‘genius’ Charlie.”

His performance was exceptional and moving.

Senior Kristin Arsenault played the teacher, Miss Kinnian, who recommends the surgery to Charlie. As the play develops, Miss Kinnian attempts to become romantically involved with Charlie.

Arsenault said, “I think she always cared about Charlie. That is clear from one of her first lines, when she describes him as ‘rather good-looking.’ She always has his best interests at heart.”

She continues, “Even when Miss Kinnian gets angry with Charlie, she apologizes because she doesn’t want to upset him before his big night at the lecture.”

Both actors noted that “Flowers for Algernon” was different from previous productions.

Arsenault said, “It is different than anything we have ever done. It is exceedingly dramatic.”

“When I first read through the script, I was heartbroken, but also grateful to be able to be a part of it, ” she said.

Arsenault added, “I was happy to hear that people cried. It means that we really did our part in creating characters that people were so attached to that they were upset in the end. Being able to be that serious, especially when many of us are known for being in the improv group and joking around, is a skill I am happy we have learned.”

Phelps reflected, “What I liked about Flowers for Algernon was the originality of the story line. I liked how a lot of the cast had never been in a show before, but they all did fantastic.”

In addition to Arsenault and Phelps, other lead roles included Jacob Simard as Dr. Jay Strauss, Ronald Russell as Professor Harold Nemur and Corbin Arsenault as Burt Seldon. Strauss and Nemur performed the surgery and then conducted the research on Charlie’s increased intelligence. Seldon was their research assistant.

Supporting actors were Kortney Chapman, Eric Thomas, Taylor Smart, Mackenzie Irish, Conor Jacobson, Breann Ross, Dalton Milledge, Kelli Trenoweth, Kayla Drapeau, Josephine Buccinna, Alexis Vining, Emily Little, Jacob O’Leary, Josh Maillet, Jill Conant, Abby LaBrash, Hannah Leonard, Abbi Rose Wheeler, Chanelle Carey and Cheyenne White.

Theater arts teacher Natalie Simmons directed the play and Celina Adley was the stage director.

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