Theatre Guild to perform ‘Flowers for Algernon’

Patrick Mathes as Charlie Gordon, holds his new friend, a laboratory mouse named Algernon.

What would you give up to become the smartest person in the world?

The Morristown Theatre Guild will help answer that question starting Friday night in its first show of the 2020 season as the guild performs “Flowers of Algernon,” based upon a short story that later became a novel, at the Rose Center Prater Hall.

In “Flowers For Algernon,” young Charlie Gordon, a mentally handicapped man, undergoes a radical experiment to boost his intelligence to incredible heights - no matter what the cost.

The short story was first published in 1959 by Daniel Keyes and won a Hugo Award for Best Short Story that year. The author later turned the story into a novel, published in 1966.

The science-fiction story had a protagonist who wasn’t an astronaut or an alien, but instead was a mentally challenged young man who wanted to become smarter.

The story has become a modern classic work of literature.

The play, set in the early 1960s uses the vocabulary of that time which is stinging to our present day sensibilities.

Frequently throughout the play, the audience is reminded of how far society has come in understanding the term “intellectually handicapped.”

This is the true purpose of the play.

The novel by Keyes has never been out-of-print and is frequently used in the reading curriculum for upper middle-school students.

Director Joe Powell’s staging is highly symbolic with a giant maze dominating as the centerpiece throughout. Instead of furniture and set pieces, the scenery is represented by pieces of that maze.

“We wanted to keep the mid-1960s setting for the story and so we utilize a mid-1960s theatrical conceptual design,” Powell said.

Playing the intensely difficult role of “Charlie” is a newcomer to the Morristown stage -Patrick Mathes, of Newport.

He approaches the role of a lifetime with an incredible sensitivity and provides heart-breaking emotional tugs on the conscience of the audience. Mathes and the rest of the cast are in top form and the audience will be moved to tears several times in the production as Charlie’s journey unfolds.

Everyone experiences the same life Charlie finds for himself - from unknowing children discovering how to read and write, eager to learn, to the joys and pains of adolescence and teenage years, and then adulthood — But for Charlie Gordon, all of those years occur in months

Performances are Friday, Saturday, March 13 and March 14 at 8 p.m. and March 8 and March 15 at 3 p.m. at the Rose Center Prater Hall.

Tickets can be found at www.onthestage.com or call 423-586-9260.

The cast includes Jeff Spencer (Nemur/Dad), Amanda Ware (Strauss), Julie Owen (Bert), Kellie NeSmith (Mother), Keana Roberts (Young Norman). Katrina Bosse (Adult Norma/Anne), Bob Trinklen (Joe), Chris Wylie (Frank), Cathy Lambert (Mrs. Feldman, Chair Lady), Genevieve Lefebvre (Gena,Jackie), Teresa Ridgeway (Mrs. Donner, Mrs. Mooney), Brandy Grimes (Mrs. Nemur), Tori Bevelheimer (Ellen/Berniece) and Christopher Bolling portrays “Young Charlie.”