Review: Speech & Debate
by ADAM FELDMAN
Roundabout Underground. By Stephen Karam. Dir. Jason Moore. With Jason Fuchs, Gideon Glick, Sarah Steele. 1hr 45mins. No intermission.
Stephen Karam’s poignant high-school comedy Speech & Debate is a talky play about things that its characters would rather not discuss. The earnest, driven Solomon (played by Fuchs with hunched, goony intensity) is suspiciously fascinated by the homosexual scandals of right-wing politicians. The queeny new kid in school, Howie (Glick, letting his lines seep out in a funny, high-pitched deadpan whine), has been cruising online chat rooms for sex with older men. And the friendless would-be diva Diwata (a magnetic Steele), who coerces the two boys into joining her inchoate forensics club, has secrets too private even for her live video blog.
The inaugural offering of the Roundabout’s new “Underground” space, Speech & Debate has been given a spiffy production, directed with a light touch by Jason Moore. The cast—which also features the sly Susan Blackwell in a double role—is very good, and Karam has a sharp eye for detail and a keen ear for the geeky, gawky dialogue of adolescent outsiders. But these assets sometimes lead him to ramble, and several scenes sag from overlength; despite the play’s clever structure and some amusing musical sequences (and a slide show of a bizarre time-travel story), a certain monotony eventually sets in. Adding an intermission would probably help: No matter how interesting the subject matter, there’s only so much one can absorb without a recess.