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Cincinnati Christian Schools' “The Women of Lockerbie"

Updated: Aug 13, 2019

Review by Lin DeGraaf, Highlands High School Cappies Critic Team

When a tragedy so horrific, so devastating strikes, healing seems almost impossible. However, Cincinnati Christian Schools' heart-wrenching play, "The Women of Lockerbie," captured the intense impacts of sorrow and the power of unified love when one's world is flipped upside down.

Based on the aftermath of the Lockerbie bombing in 1988 and structured as a Greek drama, "The Women of Lockerbie" follows a grief-stricken Madeline Livingston and her husband, Bill Livingston, whose son's life was tragically taken in the attack. Seven years later, pain still lingers and upon meeting the women of Lockerbie, Madeline and the women fight to gain the clothing of their lost loved ones and any other pieces of the past they can get. Trapped in her sorrow, Madeline discovers that healing can only occur through compassion, empathy, and unification.

Cincinnati Christian Schools' production was poignant, raw, and real. Stellar acting talents, a simple yet meaningful set, and overall stage presence was fantastic.

Leading the show was Merrick Heid, who depicted the heart-broken, and at times, grotesque Madeline Livingston. Heid's performance was truly phenomenal. Her monologue detailing the day she realized her son died on the Pan Am Flight 103 was a definite highlight. Her anguished facial expressions and loud sobbing as she fell to the ground were gut-wrenching and felt by everyone in attendance. The same dedication to a character could be seen with Luke Schlake who portrayed Bill Livingston, the husband equally affected by his son's death, yet didn't show it. Schlake impressed as his strong, outward demeanor commanded the stage. Through his earnest tone and his purposeful delivery of lines, Schlake smoothly transitioned from a man who had to put on a front for the rest of the world, to a man who could finally heal and cry.

Maggie Brown wonderfully encapsulated the role of Olive Allison, a Lockerbie woman who lost her daughter and husband in the bombing. Her character was truly believable as demonstrated by her realistic Scottish accent that she maintained throughout the play. Her calming manner when she gently comforted Madeline combined with her almost stoic-like stance as she confronted Mr. Jones, the government official, created a sense of strength and courage. Her delivery of lines was flawless and her peaceful tone was a stark juxtaposition to the rage and hurt of Madeline.

Not to be forgotten were the technical aspects of the production, one being the naturalistic set designed and executed by Jacob Flaugher and Austin Whitton. Cleverly painted tarps, representing the picturesque mountains of Lockerbie, successfully transformed the stage into the gorgeous scenery of Scotland. Also to be noted was the constant water source flowing throughout the play; its calming, white noise beautifully contrasted the terror and grief that the characters experienced.

Terror and tragedy have no way of being prevented and occur without warning; they leave families ruined and empty. However, times like these remind humanity that love can stem from hatred and while revenge is the fixation, empathy and kindness are the path to peace and healing. Cincinnati Christian High School's play, "The Women of Lockerbie," followed this path, demonstrating that while sorrow and pain are universal, love and compassion are as well.

Review by Luke Rohling, Loveland High School Cappies Critic Team

In a time in history where evil seems to triumph more and more with each passing day, Cincinnati Christian Schools' emotionally charged production of "The Women of Lockerbie" serves as a poignant reminder that evil should never be allowed to have the final word.

In a post-9/11 world, the tragedy of Pan Am Flight 103 seems to have been brushed over in the history books. The story of "The Women of Lockerbie" takes place seven years after the fatal terrorist attack that left 270 people dead. A woman named Maddie returns to the site of the explosion with her husband Bill to search for any remains of their son, who died in the explosion. They encounter a group of local women who aim to reclaim the clothes of the victims, wash them, and return them to the mourning families.

Merrick Heid and Luke Schlake were fantastic as the emotional anchors of the plot as they played Maddie and Bill respectively. Heid was able to hone her somber side as she perfectly depicted a grieving mother throughout the show. Schlake showed even greater depth as he worked to hold back his underlying grief until the second act when he began to lower his shield and set his sorrow free.

Olivia Reese was able to bring the only comedic relief of the show with her hilarious portrayal of the disgruntled Hattie. Reese's impeccable Scottish accent was another highlight of the show that only added to her comedy.

The simplistic set was accentuated by an ever-present authentic stream flowing in the background at all times. The calming auditory sensation of the trickling water provided a masterful juxtaposition with the gravity of the somber story on stage.

Cincinnati Christian Schools provided their community with a show that needs to be seen right now. A show about solidarity and being a beacon of light in a dark world. As so beautifully said on stage, "Hate is just love that's been injured."

Review by Elizabeth Volk, St. Ursula Academy Cappies Critic Team

Tragedy is paradoxical. It unites people and drives them apart. It causes some people to openly express their emotions and others to hide them. It brings out the best and the worst in people. Cincinnati Christian High School's production of "The Women of Lockerbie" marvelously portrayed all of the different facets of tragedy.

Structured like a Greek tragedy, Deborah Brevoort's 2003 play details a community's response to the devastating bombing of Pan Am 103 that killed 270 people. Seven years after the explosion, Madeline Livingston travels to Lockerbie, Scotland to search for closure through finding her son's body that was never recovered. She and her husband Bill cope with the grief of losing a child differently, causing tension between them. While there, she meets a group of women who live in Lockerbie who want to wash and return the victims' clothing to their families, despite opposition from the U.S. government.

Cincinnati Christian School's production was driven by the cast's emotional range and chemistry. All nine members of the cast brilliantly depicted the variety of emotions that people feel after a tragic event. Whether they were fighting or bonding over their grief, the cast wonderfully demonstrated their complex relationships with each other.

Leading the cast was Merrick Heid as Madeline Livingston. She portrayed Madeline's anger and grief over her son's death superbly, especially when she reenacted the moment when she found out about the explosion. As Bill Livingston, Luke Schlake spectacularly masked his grief to differentiate it from Madeline's. A highlight of his performance was his poignant breakdown when he sees his son's clothing. Maggie Brown was wonderful as Olive Allison, the leader of the Lockerbie women. Her fury-filled monologue about hating Americans for seemingly causing the bombing brilliantly contrasted her normally calm and supportive nature.

As Hattie, Olivia Reese brought comedy to an otherwise melancholic show. Her banter with Parker Wilhelm, who played a cold U.S. official named George Jones, was light-hearted and humorous. Mackenzie Turner, Briahna Bush, Abigail Bowling, and Meghan Ramsey played four Scottish women who functioned as a Greek chorus by commenting on the action. They admirably provided wisdom to support the Livingstons in their grief. All of the women's Scottish accents were well-done and added to the development of their characters.

The technical elements, while simplistic, furthered the emotional impact of the production. The sets, which were designed by Jacob Flaugher, Austin Whitton, and Crew transformed the stage into Lockerbie's tranquil hills. The rocky textures and trees added to the set's realistic look. There was also an actual stream, created by Jacob Flaugher and Austin Whitton. The sound of the running water evoked peace and provided a backdrop to the play's action.

With impressive performances and emotional intensity, Cincinnati Christian High School's production of "The Women of Lockerbie" was remarkable. The cast's differing reactions to the bombing emphasized the paradox of tragedy. While tragedies divide people, this production unites them through its poignancy.

Excerpts from Top-Ranked Student Reviews

“The leads of the production handled the emotional and delicate roles with grace and excellence. Luke Schlake brought the entire audience to tears throughout the show, bringing specificity and emotional depth to the incredibly realistic character of Bill Livingston. As Madeline Livingston, Merrick Heid also demonstrated a vast understanding of her character's grief throughout the production, even in the violent moments. The chemistry between the pair was strong, and both actors worked phenomenally in making their moments together believable and heart-wrenching.”

-Anna Colletto, Loveland High School

“A specific role that stood out was Hattie (Olivia Reese). Though the plot of the play focuses on the subject of grief and all that follows, Olivia Reese gave a superb comedic relief. Olive Allison (Maggie Brown), Hattie (Reese), and the rest of the women from Lockerbie had excellent Scottish accents.”

-Gracie Markus, Campbell County High School

“The technical aspects of the show were just as impressive as the actors. The crew used creative materials, like attic insulation, to transform the stage into the lush hills of Lockerbie. The set team also demonstrated engineering excellence with their inclusion of a constantly flowing stream. The soothing sound of water in the background juxtaposed the intense nature of the show and acted as a physical representation of healing.”

-Jane Nalbandian, School for Creative & Performing Arts

“The supporting roles of Olive Allison, Hattie, and George Jones, played by Maggie Brown, Olivia Reese, and Parker Wilhelm, respectively, were also memorable. Brown secured her role with knowledge, mastering the wilted body language of one fighting through sorrow. Reese added comedy to the play with witty remarks delivered with an impeccable Scottish accent. Wilhelm provided a stark contrast, commanding the stage with confidence and insensitivity in his role of the government official demanding the incineration of the clothes.”

-Ellie Lewis, Mariemont High School

“The lead actress, Merrick Heid, had a challenge in playing Madeline, a woman who is so entirely debilitated by the loss of her son that she cannot seem to think about anything else. Both she and lead actor Luke Schlake did terrific jobs at portraying their characters, but the chemistry between the two was utterly toxic in the most fitting way. The death of the Livingston's son decimated their relationship, to the point where Madeline could barely look at her husband; both Schlake and Heid, despite being high school students who have not been married for 25 years, perfectly executed this complicated dynamic.”

-Clare Brennan, Walnut Hills High School

“The set was beautiful and framed the entire play, yet still left room for the imagination to create its own unique landscape. The constant stream of water that ran through the whole show gave an interesting and unsettling juxtaposition; while the flow of the stream was calming and relaxing, the contents of the play were so raw and serious that one could feel sick to their stomach. It was a beautiful and poetic contrast about the land itself and the horrible tragedy that corrupted Lockerbie.”

-Shannon Renner, Mariemont High School

“The women of Lockerbie were led by Olive Allison, portrayed by Maggie Brown, and consisted of four other women, played by Mackenzie Turner, Briahna Bush, Abigail Bowling, and Meghan Ramsey. These women were the ideal ensemble, as they acted as one body, guiding Madeline and Bill through their journey to healing as well as fighting to obtain the clothes for their own healing as well. Each actress had her own personality, and added something different yet important to the collective group. However, they combined these different traits to become one unified body, providing wisdom throughout the entire production.”

-Hannah Stansbury, Ursuline Academy

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