Big starts

By MEGAN GRUMBLING  |  December 22, 2009

The setting of high school is central to my next set of props, for the thrillingly multi-medial SPEECH AND DEBATE, which premiered at SPACE Gallery. In Stephen Karam's irreverent dark comedy, directed by Sean Mewshaw, three Oregon high school misfits, encounter the cyber-ripples of a teacher's sex scandal in their daily circuits of chat rooms, Google, and personal video blogs. Between live performance, projections, and live cameras, audiences watched Christopher Reilling, Rachel Flehinger, and Philip Hobby in various angles of video-blogging and bated-breath instant-messaging. The result was an exhilarating and precisely-pitched portrait not just of three teenagers with a mission, but of adolescence itself in this uber-cyber-century. I hope SPACE will continue to experiment with innovative theater in 2010.

Finally, I want to refrain my praise for the cheeky innovations that FENIX THEATRE CO. brought to this summer's al fresco A Midsummer Night's Dream: Under Peter Brown's delicious direction, Fenix made this very frequently performed comedy uncommonly and gloriously fresh: The fairies were glammed up in fluorescent short-shorts, rave wings, and glitter; and spirit and human trickeries alike were sublime — witty, gritty, and astonishingly physical. Brown's crowning coup was to let the supernatural royals — Kathleen Kimball's Titania and Paul Drinan's Oberon — don crowns to play at being the human Hippolyta and Theseus, while the behexed lovers — Liz Chambers's Helena, Brian Chamberlain's Lysander, Ariel Francoeur's Hermia, and Seth Rigoletti's Demetrius — were further transformed into priceless Rude Mechanicals. There on the grass of Deering Oaks Park, I laughed so hard I couldn't breathe.

Megan Grumbling can be reached at mgrumbling@hotmail.com.

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