Ola’s One-Act Cast ‘Sends’ Chills

Warning: Spoilers Ahead


Payton DiSario

Vicos stuns the audience in a beautiful display of strength in Alina’s final moments. Tomlinson described Vicos as reuniting with someone she had missed, most likely in reference to Alina’s dead parents.

Payton DiSario, Media and Sports Editor

Pained screams fell across a hushed audience and goosebumps crept between the seats and across the theater as polished shoes echoed over the stage. The screams ceased abruptly to the tune of an uneasy silence that snaked its way through every corner like a poisonous gas.  

As their competition one act this year, Ola High School’s theater department presented “Sending Down the Sparrows” by Laura Lundgren Smith. The show transports audience members across the Atlantic and all the way back to the reign of the Nazi party just as the government had begun to euthanize the disabled. 

Olivia Vicos, junior, plays mentally disabled Alina. The curtains first opened to Vicos’ lone silhouette against a blood-red background. The image eerily set the tone for the regrettably real, nightmarish occurrences that would soon take place. 

Soon after, Viktor, played by Zachry Aaron, senior, introduces himself as Alina’s undisabled twin and a member of the Hitler Youth, the Nazi Party’s organization into which the government forced every boy. After Viktor made his first appearance, the show instantly threw the audience into an appalling reality with reckless abandon. 

Viktor rejoined the rest of his Hitler Youth group only to expose the audience to the meticulous propaganda the Nazi’s shoved down the boys’ throats. Karl, played by Hank Sledge, senior, in particular displayed a nearly religious devotion to the Third Reich. Sledge’s portrayal captivated audience members. When Sledge passionately shouted his devotion and viciously criticized all who did not share his convictions, onlookers collectively held their breath. 

Samuel Harris, sophomore, who played Josef, also enthralled the audience with the depth of his character. A state placing wrestler who balanced athletics with the arts, he faultlessly rendered a boy who not only felt devoted to the Nazis, but also guiltily recognized the harm in some the ideals for which the Nazis stood. Harris perfectly projected the powerlessness of feeling lost and unheard in today’s world on a boy who lived in a much different reality.

Most of the characters went above and beyond to fulfill their role. Vicos, for instance, so tastefully and accurately presented Alina’s quirks by talking to Ola’s teachers of the intellectually disabled and befriending the students themselves.

Reilly Rakestraw, junior, who played the blind man that Karl coaxed Josef and Victor to beat to death, left horrified chills running down the audience’s spine and induced a grim trance from which the audience could not break.

Kara Tomlinson, junior, played a nurse that brought tears to many eyes when she delivered a solemn monologue regarding the patients who had been gassed.

Payton DiSario
Mason Mitcham, junior and another one of the nurses, examines a patient to see if he has gold teeth before his shipment to the gas chambers. The show remained historically accurate in describing letters it claimed that Nazi’s sent to gassed-patients’ families.

Sarah Plemons, junior and Alina’s nurse, acted as a ray of light that onlookers willed not to go out, and, outside of the spotlight, instinctually helped clear the stage after two hats had mistakenly fallen.

There were very few awkward pauses or stumbles that the cast delivered, and none from any of the leads. As these hesitations were rare, the cast’s riveting story and graceful delivery compensated for any mild distractions.

For example, Aaron subtly developed two different sides of his character as the show went on, which is extremely impressive. Aaron also utilized his costume in a clever manner. Every time he did something highlighting his humanity, such as comforting Alina, confiding in his dead parents or attempting to save the blind man, Aaron removed the hat that accompanied the uniform of the Hitler Youth, often concealing it in his pocket while keeping the hat visible to the audience so his message could be seen, felt and understood. Each time he sacrificed his identity or ideals for the sake of survival, the hat reappeared on his head. 

Along with costumes, the show’s lights were brilliantly used. From the silhouetting Alina in red at the very beginning, to gradually increasing focus on Alina as the Hitler Youth forced Viktor to insult the disabled, to the final silhouette of Alina in white as she met her fate, the lighting technicians deserved their own round of applause.

One mild distraction was the visibility of Vicos’ silhouette, even as the scene revolved around the Hitler Youth on the other side of the stage. While Vicos continued subtle movements out of the necessity to develop a believable character, it dragged attention away from a more important scene.

While Rakestraw and Aaron’s screams of despair were heartbreaking, the scene that stood alone in its brilliance solely focused on Vicos, silhouetted once again as Tomlinson’s voice dripped pain across the stage. Tomlinson describes the deaths of the disabled and one girl who stood out to her: Alina. Rather than crying in terror, Alina had looked to heaven and sang of the sparrows Viktor had referenced earlier in the show. 

As the traveler, or the curtain, began to shrink around Vicos, it errored, opening then closing again, and yet, the beautiful sorrow of the scene had not been lost. 

“Sending Down the Sparrows”, an exquisitely written script, provided Ola with the paint to reveal a dark reality that truly happened. Meggie Edwards, director and theater teacher at Ola, selected a cast that effectively acted as paintbrushes: delicate, mature, eye-opening and world-building. As the cast fixes the few and far between faults before competition, they are sure to bring home an award worthy of their beautiful performance.