The Suffield Youth Theater (SYT), in its fourth season, presented The Outsiders in three performances at the Second Baptist Church on February 16 and 17. For this production, Fellowship Hall was set up as theater in the round. The dramatic story of teen-age group adversaries was adapted from a best-selling 1967 book that has been in wide use in American schools, not for its writing style, but for its social significance. It also became a popular 1983 movie. As a stage production, the tale presented a challenge to the teen-led SYT that was well met, as usual.
The sparse staging for a story in the American middle southwest was far from the New York West Side, but inter-group youth tensions are universal. In this case the Greasers (hair oil, not Valvoline) and the Socs (for their upper class social group) interact violently, with profound results. And Johnny, the perpetrator of a mortal stabbing later seen as justifiable, becomes a hero in a brave rescue but dies from his bravery. Telling the story was Ponyboy, a sensitive, poetry-writing, book-loving member of the Greasers whose recollections become his school term paper.
As Ponyboy, Jonah Barresi of Longmeadow carried the star role well, including a number of demanding soliloquies, and Nathan Fabrizi, as Ponyboy’s younger brother Johnny, was particularly effective. Understandably, the major rumble was presented in symbolic fashion; certainly a realistic battle in Fellowship Hall could not be expected.
Two secondary roles on stage were portrayed by adults, in a diversion from usual SYT custom. And for this production, the SYT leaders all wanted to be part of the drama on stage, so they recruited an adult volunteer director, Walter Mantini, whose success here indicated that he was no neophyte. Dominick Colangelo, one of the group’s founders, commented that he expected future productions to stay true to SYT’s student–run philosophy.