Throwing in the striptease-clever, quite clever
If you've ever worried
about the misuse of technology
causing you anxiety, shame or
even legal repercussions, then
Powder and Wig's production of
Stephen Karam's Speech and
Debate offers a host of
examples of what not to
do. The show is a dark
comedy about teenage
and technological responsibility
(with a little bit of
striptease thrown in).
The plot of the play centers around three friendless highschoolers with insight into a student-teacher sex scandal: Diwata (played by Annelise Wiersema '10), a talentless, aspiring star-ofthe- stage; Howie (played by Ethan Meigs '12), an openly gay transfer student; and Solomon (played by Francis Gassert '11), a nosy journalist for the school paper who we learn is also gay. Each character's involvement with a perverted, pedophiliac drama teacher ties their fates together so that the only way the three of them can solve their personal predicaments is through the lamest club on campus: Speech and Debate.
Cleverly staged by first-year director Abby Colella, the play took place not in a theater, but in the lecture hall in the basement of Arey. Whether this setup was for artistic reasons or merely because Powder and Wig couldn't find anywhere else to perform, it worked. Although the stage did not lend itself to an elaborate set (the only things that distinguished one setting from another were blocking and the audience's imagination), the classroom setting added an element of intimacy to the performance. Colella took advantage of every aspect of the lecture hall, most notably using the overhead projector to display visual examples like Internet sex chat rooms and children's books about time travel and the Bible.
The comedic zenith of the play, the club's "Group Interpretation" piece for the Speech and Debate competition, begins with Diwata playing Mary Warren (the protagonist from Arthur Miller's The Crucible) along with Howie playing a closet homosexual, teenaged Abraham Lincoln, traveling back several thousand years, and ends with an erotic ribbon dance in which Diwata, Howie and Solomon remove all their clothes to reveal full body stockings.
This is not your parents' comedy. One of the greatest aspects of the play's social relevance is that much of the play's humor would be lost for most people over the age of twenty-five. The student-directed piece is very much about students, by students, for students. Though the characters are still several years away from college, the social relevance of the play extends to anyone who has grown up in the technology-driven, image obsessed culture of the twenty-first century