By Kevin Canessa Jr.
There’s no doubt you’ve likely seen “The Addams Family” at some point, whether it’s the classic TV show or more recent versions on the large screen. But this week — Wednesday to Saturday to be precise — you’ll find a completely new take of “The Addams Family” at West Hudson Arts & Theater Co. (W.H.A.T.), presented in conjunction with Teen Drama, a local theater company for kids in kindergarten through 12th grade,
This production, says show co-director Michele Sarnoski, is based more on “The Addams Family” comics. It focuses on Wednesday who is all grown up and in love with someone unlike any member of the Addams Family.
“So a lot of the show is how The Addams Family deals with someone who comes from a normal family,” said Sarnoski, a graduate of Lyndhurst High School.
The two most veteran performers in the show are Faith D’Isa (Wednesday) and James Berko (Lurch). Both D’Isa and Berko are longtime members of Teen Drama — but are back, one last time, as ascending college sophomores. And that delights Sarnoski.
“They are just amazing,” Sarnoski said. “And what’s perhaps the greatest part is that this year, there are 11 new kids in the production. And they’ve both grown to embrace the new kids — to show them what Teen Drama is all about — and it’s not an easy task.
“A lot of what James has to do is in his movements. It’s physical. So he doesn’t get to use his voice much to show the other kids things. Yet he does it so well. And Faith, if you’ve ever seen her, she’s always got a smile on her face, she’s always so bubbly. And she plays the ever-stoic Wednesday.
“But they’re both so awesome at showing the younger kids our traditions.”
The rest of the cast includes Dennis Oliveira (Gomez Addams), Maggie Spector- Williams (Morticia Addams), Rachel Spillane (Wednesday Addams in two shows), Abigail Stokes (Pugsley Addams), John McCullough (Fester Addams), Joana Marmelo (Grandma Addams), Michael Oliveira (Beikeke), Samantha Armenteros (Alice Beineke), Tyler Bremner (Mal Beineke), Briana Dickinson, Alyssa Fink, Jillian Fitzpatrick, Lauren Gold, Melanie Hill, Stefanie Pancaro, Spencer Roda, Valentine Rojas, Alyssa Schirm and Julia Truskolawski (Addams Family Ancestors).
5 years and counting
For Sarnoski, this is year five of Teen Drama. She began the program after several local parents approached her and said they wanted more for their kids to do, dramawise, in the summer months. So Sarnoski and her show co-director, Joe Ferriero, got together to form Teen Drama.
Sarnoski and Ferriero had worked together for quite some time — dating back to 2003 — when they co-founded an immensely successful drama program at the former St. Stephen’s School … and later Mater Dei Academy.
“Joe is my best friend, and I love working with him,” Sarnoski said. “So about five, six years ago, we put the program together for kids who are in kindergarten to the 12th-grade. The first year, we had just 10 kids. Now we’re up to 25. It’s been an amazing experience.”
And the connections with W.H.A.T. have been very beneficial for both organizations, as well.
Many of the youngsters who have performed in Teen Drama shows have gone on to perform in W.H.A.T. shows. And, because W.H.A.T. offers several theater-related educational programs each year, the youngsters in Teen Drama have benefitted from W.H.A.T.’s outreach, as well.
“We’ve been great feeders for each other,” Sarnoski said.
Speaking of feeders, the young performers aren’t just from West Hudson. In fact, this year, there are kids from Nutley, Lyndhurst and North Arlington — from middle schools and high schools, both public and private. And that expansion is very exciting, Sarnoski says.
Sarnoski says she’s most satisfied when people leave Teen Drama shows with a smile.
“We want the kids to feel like they’re part of a family,” she said. “It’s only a six-week program, so there’s a lot to do in a short period of time. Then when people leave happy after shows, and they’re impressed, we know we’ve done things right.
Indeed, they have.
Find out more about Teen Drama by visiting www.teendrama.org, or by calling 973-498-8336 or by sending a message by email to info@ teendrama.org.
Showtimes for “The Addams Family” are Wednesday, July 30, to Saturday, Aug. 2, at 7:30 p.m., with a 1:30 p.m. matinee on Saturday, Aug. 2, at the W.H.A.T. Theater, 131 Midland Ave., Kearny (the former St. Stephen’s School). Tickets can be purchased at the door for $10 or online at www.teendrama.org. Special $7 tickets are available for the Saturday matinee for senior citizens.