Stage blogging

A chat room sex scandal
By MEGAN GRUMBLING  |  April 1, 2009

The main characters of the play Speech and Debate, three Oregon high school misfits, do a lot of their living among the modern technologies of chat rooms, Google, and personal video blogs. These technologies sometimes hyper-contextualize their lives, and other times liberate them from context almost entirely — which makes the border realm between adolescence and adulthood a particularly fraught and interesting place.

In this brave new medial world, the three teens of Speech and Debate are brought together by the cyber-ripples of a sex scandal involving a chat room and one of their teachers. The unlikely team — nerdy aspiring journalist Soloman (Christopher Reiling), out gay Howie (Philip Hobby), and awkward drama girl Diwata (Rachel Flehinger) — are out to disclose the truth in Stephen Karam's irreverent dark comedy. Sean Mewshaw directs a thrillingly multi-medial production in the first of what I hope will be many theater works presented by SPACE Gallery.

This savvy and technologically glamorous production shows us portraits of the teens via beautifully projected manifestations of their own media: We watch Diwata talk into a camera to broadcast her video blog while simultaneously, her huge image looks right into our eyes from the screen behind her. When Howie flirts in a chat room, the bated-breath start and stop of the text is large and addictively rhythmic behind him. The result is an exhilarating and precisely-pitched portrait not just of three teenagers with a mission, but of adolescence itself in this uber-cyber-century.

I strongly recommend making time for this one. The acting is smart and rambunctious and the technical magic is utterly engrossing — including, as you might expect from SPACE, a super sound system (blasting, notably, "Hip-Hop-O-Potamus" and George Michael's "Freedom").

Speech and Debate | at SPACE Gallery, in Portland | April 1 @ 10:30 pm and April 4 and 5 @ 8 pm | 207.838.3006

Related: Review: Surviving the vivid depravity of Killer Joe, Get a glimpse of Open Waters' Farms and Fables project, Crucibles, More more >
  Topics: Theater , Internet, Science and Technology, Technology,  More more >
| More


Most Popular
ARTICLES BY MEGAN GRUMBLING
Share this entry with Delicious
  •   PREPARE FOR THE FALL  |  September 18, 2014
    The season of theater at USM, Good Theater, Mad Horse, Portland Stage Company, and many more.
  •   TAKING CENTER STAGE  |  September 03, 2014
    “I’ve always loved hidden treasures,” says Michael Levine, founding artistic director of Acorn Productions, as he climbs the stairs to the third-floor ballroom of Mechanics Hall, a gem of a historic space concealed in plain sight right on Congress Street.
  •   BARN FULL OF WONDER  |  August 31, 2014
    Although summer is winding down, there’s still time for this summery, feel-good theatrical throwback to simpler times.
  •   BEREAVE IT OR NOT  |  August 22, 2014
    A dramedy about death, lust, and love by Portland actress and playwright Megan E. Tripaldi.
  •   WELCOME OBSCENITY  |  August 22, 2014
    When dancers or denizens at these close tables rustle, giggle, or whisper something titillating, it sounds like the prurience is coming from someone in our own party.

 See all articles by: MEGAN GRUMBLING