Sex, Secrets and blogging in 'Speech & Debate'
The Associated Press
October 29, 2007
NEW YORK: The best explanation for how much "Speech & Debate" can get away with is probably that it earns enormous credibility with its audience by being flat-out funny.
Much of the credit goes to young playwright Stephen Karam, who has an outstanding ear for how young people talk and whose comedy was selected as the first production of Roundabout Underground, the Roundabout Theatre Company's initiative for new plays. It opened Monday at the company's 62-seat (and literally under ground) Black Box Theatre.
"Speech & Debate" follows three Oregon high-schoolers ? an already embittered aspiring actress, a serious-faced aspiring reporter and a recent transfer who has dirt on a drama teacher.
Sex, secrets and hypocrisy are the themes that tie the play together. (Besides Craig, Mark Foley and Ted Haggard both get mentions.) And "Speech & Debate" can drag just a bit as the three kids sort out their knotted-together plot lines.
But most of the time, it's just funny. Jason Fuchs plays Solomon, the would-be reporter, with charming earnestness. Gideon Glick is effective as the jaded transfer student. And Susan Blackwell doubles as a teacher and a professional reporter ? hilariously in the latter case.
But by far, the best thing about "Speech & Debate" is Sarah Steele. We meet her character, Diwata, while she's blogging and podcasting about her outrageous snub for the cast of the high school production of "Once Upon a Mattress." Blogging and podcasting ? again, it sounds like a gimmick, designed to scream out how edgy and relevant the play is, but it works.
Steele is pretty much perfect. At one point, she delivers a staged reading of an online chat transcript, and the only thing keeping people from actually falling out of their seats laughing is that the seats in the tiny Black Box are so close together.
"Speech & Debate" is set to run through Dec. 16.