Saturday, June 19, 2010

"Speech and Debate": ☼ ☼ BANG baub

The Aurora Theater's new production of Stephen Karam's "Speech and Debate" shines when Jayne Deely's Dewata (the girl who is always auditioning) is speaking. Her story, about a high school girl continually turned down for the school play, is a resonating one. She has all the great lines and 99.8 percent of the show's charisma.

The show sags with the lack of development of the two male characters, the queeny boy who came out at age ten (Howie, played by Maro Guevara) and the closeted boy (Solomon, played by Jason Frank) who is fighting the usual demons -- religious parents, society who doesn't care and so on). There is little about their plight that makes us care one way or the other about them -- in fact, it appears that after all the angst of Solomon's self-discovery, the lesson we are all to draw is that he is now free to access a gay chat room.

Deely is an absolute delight. As she sits cross-legged on her desk broadcasting her live podcast, in which she inadvertently tosses in personal information that may come back to haunt her, she sings, she chants, she jokes and she draws us toward her. That her drama teacher doesn't want to cast her seems as implausible to us as it does to her. It must be a school full of Mary Martins.

But perhaps this is the author's point -- adults are dumb. They won't talk about politics, or religion, or sex, which is all the kids want to talk about. It's a cyber world now, but the coming-out drama doesn't seem to have changed much through the years. Howie is out and Solomon will be. We get it. They really need to have something new to say to justify the length of this show.

RATINGS: ☼ ☼ BANG baub

The San Francisco Theater Blog Awards Division awards "Speech and Debate" Two Stars with a BANGLE of PRAISE and a bauble of despair. This review means the show comes up short but Jayne Deely's performance is so good you may want to see her right now, because you're definitely going to be watching her in the future. Also very interesting are the production effects and cyber language. When this cast sings together -- The BANGLE is for the musical numbers, too short and too few -- you see how exciting they could be with a different vehicle.

But that ending? OMG. HELP.

"Speech and Debate"
Aurora Theatre
2081 Addison Street, Berkeley
Through June 17

No comments: