Friday, March 12, 2010

Dobama Theatre: Speech & Debate

To shamelessly steal a line near the end of Speech & Debate, at Dobama Theatre through April 4th, "I encourage you to show up with an open mind. If you go to listen, you will leave talking"

Attempting to summarize Stephen Karam's Speech and Debate without giving away the plot is impossible to do while rendering proper justice to the tremendously witty play featuring the trio of Nick Pankuch's Howie, Nicholas Varricchio's Solomon, and Shelby Bartelstein's Diwata along with Elizabeth Ann Townsend filling the adult roles of Teacher and Reporter.

Beginning with Aaron Copland's Fanfare for the Common Man, Speech and Debate catches that audience's attention and then holds it through the 2-hour intermission-less performance that feels much shorter. Essentially you expect that the often-referenced but never seen drama teacher's secrets will be revealed, but along the way each of the teens own secrets are revealed culminating in a three-way blackmail triangle that the wonderfully frumpy Diwata leverages to forward her agenda of a speech and debate club, while touching social taboo, prejudice, teenage angst and any number of other items (Arthur Miller's The Crucible as a musical! Schools that will alter plays to suit conservative taste while ignoring the author's intent and creative control!*).

It's funny, it's musical, it's thought provoking. It's entertaining. I felt as though I was watching through a hallway window outside the classroom: Without immersion it was quite easy to remain emotionally detached from all of the characters, yet it is one of the better, more entertaining dramas I've seen in several years. It's not too bad as a camp musical either.

Directed by Scott Plate; Now through April 4th / $22 adults / $10 students. Dobama Theatre, 2340 Lee Road, Cleveland Heights.

* - Personal connection: My senior year of high school we produced The Who's Tommy, a rock opera based on the concept album (Pinball Wizard, etc.) -- for political reassons the character of the Gypsy was cut entirely (along with the song Acid Queen: "I'm a Gypsy, an acid queen, pay me before we start"), leaving a bit of a hole. Yours truly did "lighting design", intelligent lighting programming, conventional lighting programming, and bench repair for that show. It was fun.

No comments:

Post a Comment