Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Phoenix

Diary of a Wallflower
Stage Left Productions
Review by Gil Benbrook

Also see Gil's recent review of The Prom

Brian Shahenian, Fernando Castillo,
Jayda Valentine, and Ryan Hodges

Photo by Rodney Rickard
Craig Sodaro's 2015 play Diary of a Wallflower is a well-written drama about a high school student who feels she's invisible and hopes someone will notice her. The 90-minute play features identifiable characters and situations, and some nice life lessons that both teens and adults can learn from. Stage Left Productions' youth production features a large cast of talented young adults, clear direction, and good creative elements that help get the play's messages across.

The plot centers on high school junior Charlotte, someone no one seems to notice. Even her best friend Gabby sometimes fails to notice her and her mother is rarely around due to taking extra shifts at work. Charlotte begins to write messages in her diary that lay out her feelings and thoughts, and those diary entries form the narration of the play. Charlotte thinks she might find a way to be more visible when she's paired with the popular jock Ryder on a project for civics class, but even he doesn't really pay her much attention, referring to her as Carol and assuming that she'll do all of the work on the project for both of them. When the need arises for someone to run against the popular Madison for class president, Charlotte is urged to fill the spot. Will she get enough students to notice her and get their votes as well, or will she forever remain invisible?

Sodar's play does a fairly good job of depicting the ups and down of high school life and, while there are serious topics broached, the piece has comical moments as well, which helps it be more lighthearted and not so heavy. The dialogue is fresh and realistic, and the characters are ones you'll identify with, even if you graduated high school decades ago.

Under Amber Ryan's smart direction, the entire cast shine. Ryan is an accomplished actress as well; I've seen her play roles both dramatic and comedic, so it's no surprise that her cast deliver performances that are natural and realistic. Ryan also designed the set and lighting which work well to depict the various locales in the show, and her costumes are character appropriate.

Jayda Valentine has the appropriate stage presence with downcast eyes and a quiet and shy demeanor to easily get across the wallflower and invisible status that Charlotte feels. She makes you feel for Charlotte and want her to be more visible to those around her. Ryan Hodges is fun as her best friend Gabby, and Ryan Crispino is quite good as Marcus, Charlotte's classmate who appears to have feelings for her. As Charlotte's mother, Allison Eck does a wonderful job portraying a woman many years older than her actual age.

Kate Donick, Lillian Gray, and Mariah Pennington, all do good work as Madison and her two friends that make up the school's "mean girl" clique; Fernando Castillo and Brian Shahenian are great as the somewhat clueless popular young man in the class Ryder Reynolds and his best friend, the comical Jason Krupp, respectively. Brook Kirby and Emily Sandiford are great as two teachers in the school, as is Daniel Parra as one of Charlotte's fellow students, and Aliyah Pennington is warm and bright in the pivotal role of Lizbeth Chandler.

Diary of a Wallflower may not be a deep, thought-provoking drama but it is a well-written play that shows how role models, empowerment, and discovering there are people who care for you may make you feel that you aren't as invisible as you thought you were.

Diary of a Wallflower runs through September 23, 2023, at Stage Left Productions, 11340 West Bell Road, Suite 105, Surprise AZ. For tickets and information, please visit or call 623-285-6321

Director/Prop/Set/Lighting/Costume Designer: Amber Ryan
Stage Manager: Adalie Chudziak

Cast: (in order of appearance)
Charlotte Walden: Jayda Valentine
Gabby Alexander: Ryan Hodges
Marcus Moreno: Ryan Crispino
Iggy Rossi: Daniel Parra
Ryder Reynolds: Fernando Castillo
Jason Krupp: Brian Shahenian
Madison Truesdale: Kate Donick
Sierra Diaz: Lillian Gray
Kamryn Campbell: Mariah Pennington
Ms. Walden: Allison Eck
Ms. Rivera: Brook Kirby
Mr. Stone: Emily Sandiford
Lizbeth Chandler: Aliyah Pennington