Speech & Debate
Playwright Stephen Karams quirky high school comedy imaginatively (and sometimes disturbingly) reinvents the witch-hunt of The Crucible through the teenage frame of The Breakfast Club, mixing in a touch of Datelines To Catch a Predator. In a small, claustrophobic Oregon town, sexually precocious teenager Howie (Michael Welch) engages in come-hither provocative cyberchat with a much older man, who turns out to be none other than his own drama teacher. Fiendishly ambitious high school newspaper reporter Solomon (Aaron Himelstein), driven by his own repressed sexuality, learns of Howies interactions and wants to make his story public in a huge exposé. Along with Diwata (Mae Whitman), a vengeful theater brat who has been passed up by the drama teacher for one too many acting roles, Solomon and Howie form an organization that to the rest of the world appears to be the schools Speech and Debate club, but which, in fact, has a darker and more confrontational purpose. Although Karams writing occasionally slips on its own soap opera suds, the combination of artistry and a brash, youthful energy is unsettling enough to elicit a few squirms exactly the kind youd hope for in the theater. Director Daniel Hennings psychologically shrewd direction drives the action while being engagingly intimate. Himselsteins sweetly neurotic Solomon; Whitmans shrill, driven Diwata; and Welchs technologically sophisticated but emotionally naive gay boy are hilarious, touching and disturbing by turns.
Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Starts: Sept. 18. Continues through Nov. 16, 2008
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