A truly bad seed


Leroy, played by senior Junior Paz, accuses Rhoda Penmark, senior Priscilla Lopez, of murder during the second act of The Bad Seed, on Jan. 20, in the school’s theatre. Lopez appeared in other schools plays such as put on by the drama production class.

Marilyn Ramirez, Copy Editor/Co-Editor-in-Chief

Downey’s Drama Production class took the theatre back to an eerie time in the 1950s, during the last weeks of January as they presented The Bad Seed. The stage was set as the Penmark home in a Florida suburb with young, psychopathic Rhoda (Priscilla Lopez) driving her mother Christine (Jeanette Nitao) to heartbreak.

“It was amazing at how well the play turned out and how hard they worked to make it convincing,” Robert Orellana, 12, said. “I believe the play was done very well and that the actors did a good job on their roles in it.”

The production was based on a novel written in 1954 by William March that was later adapted into a successful and long-running Broadway musical by Maxwell Anderson and an Academy Award-nominated film directed by Mervyn LeRoy.

“I spent a lot of time watching the movie to really get Rhoda’s personality down,” Lopez, 12, said. “Facial expressions, the way she talked; it really helped me prepare for the role. At first, it was pretty hard to play her. I’m not the kind to play those creepy roles.”

Christine begins to notice signs of her daughter’s strangeness after the death of one of Rhoda’s classmates. She made the horrifying discovery that Rhoda killed the boy after finding a penmanship medal that he won instead of the murdurer; Christine knew that her daughter would most likely kill again.

“My favorite scene without a doubt was the fight scene between Rhoda and I,” Nitao, 12, said. “Every night when we fought and the box [with the medal] fell the audience would get up on their feet and try to figure out what fell and what was the big secret. Then the whispers would start and the gasps of, ‘She did it!’”

She nonetheless protected her daughter by preventing anyone from finding out, urging Rhoda to burn the murder weapon-her metal-plated tap shoes-in the incinerator. She even lied to the dead boy’s mother, insisting her “sweet, innocent Rhoda” had nothing to do with his drowning.

“I was most nervous about the scene where [Rhoda] admits she killed the boy,” Lopez said. “You finally get to see the real side of her and it was unnerving.”

The only character other than Christine to see through Rhoda’s innocent act is Leroy (Junior Paz), the maintenance man. After he jokingly claimed to have the shoes that were used to kill her classmate, Rhoda took him seriously and went ballistic, screaming for them back. Leroy realized that she really did kill the boy and denies ever having the shoes. Later on, both the audience and Christine hear crackling and screaming which, to their horror, was the result of Leroy being burned alive. His murder was done by none other than Rhoda.

“There is nothing better than knowing as an actress that your audience is fully engaged and believes whole heartedly everything they see is real,” Nitao said.

To add to the dramatic storyline, Christine discovers that she was the daughter of well-known serial killer Bessie Denker, and was adopted at two years of age by her current father. Christine then worries that Rhoda’s sociopathic behavior was inherited from Denker. This added to the primary theme of the play, nature versus nature.

“My favorite scene was where Christine confronts her dad on her dream she keeps having and to find out who she is and where she came from,” said Orellana. “Not just that, but the ending’s big twist although it was a little foreshadowed.”

The production reached its climax with Lopez and Nitao as they performed the most riveting scene of the night. Christine put Rhoda to sleep with enough sleeping pills to kill her just before she left the room with her own batch. The next scene shocked the audience with the irony of Rhoda being alive as she was rushed the hospital, unlike her mother who did not make it.

“We all put in every ounce of effort we had to make this production a success. When it’s a live performance there is this satisfaction of hearing and seeing the audience react and being able to meet with them after,” Nitao said. “There is also a kind of adrenaline rush from knowing you have one shot to get it right and your cast is depending on you as much as you are on, whereas being recorded you don’t really need to get it right the first time.”

The audience applauded for the cast as they took their final bow after the spine-chilling conclusion.  Many of viewers left the theatre talking about the twist of events; they congratulated the cast on their captivating performance.