Friday, March 27, 2020

REVIEW: Teenage Dick, Livestreamed (sort of) from Theater Wit.

I just got through seeing the Livestreamed production of Teenage Dick by Mike Lew.  I wrote about it a couple of days ago here, and they very graciously offered me a ticket to see the show.

In short, it's a great play, well worth seeing.

The basic idea is that they have transplanted the story of Richard III into high school, where a boy with cerebral palsy (Richard Gloucester, played by MacGregor Arney) has it in his mind to become the class president over the teenage football quarterback Eddie (played by Ty Fanning). Along the way, he reads Machiavelli, confides in his also disabled friend Buck (played by Tamara Rozofsky), falls in love with Eddy's old girl friend Ann (played by Courtney Rikki Green), and dupes his high school teacher Ms. York, played by Liz Cloud.  Also in the mix is Clarissa, a Christian goody-two-shoes who also wants to be class president.  She is played by Kathleen Niemann.

Although the play follows pretty closely the plot of Richard III, it is set in high school, so bullying, twitter, Instagram selfies, online taunting, and hooking up all have their moments in the show.   The play has heightened language (and some swearing, so kids beware).  Richard speaks about half the time as if he were a Shakespearian villain and half the time if he was in the HBO version of Glee. (After the show, during the post-show discussion, I imagined a Glee version of this show, which would be interesting, but not nearly so well written or acted.)

Top Left:  Richard and Eddie.  Top Right: Richard and Buck.
Bottom Left:  Richard and Ann.   Bottom Right: Ann, Buck, and Richard. 
All photos by Charles Osgood.  Provided by the theater.

Richard, very well played by MacGregor Arney.

All of the cast are great, but I thought that MacGregor Arney as Richard did an especially wonderful job of striking a balance between power-mad Richard and a boy trying to be a human.  It's a hard needle to thread, but he manages it. There's a moment at the end where it was a bit of a cliff-hanger as to whether or not the play would follow Richard III's tragic conclusion (and rather than spoil it, I will urge you to watch the play and decided for yourself. )

Ann, played by Courtney Green, in a moment of indecision.

 I was also taken with Courtney Green's Ann, who has a meta-moment late in the play where she tells her story for a minute.  This was haunting and wonderful and reminded me of a moment in another play about disability, The Boys Next Door by Tom Griffin.   In that play, one of the retarded men steps out of his retarded character for a moment, to speak about what it is that he really wants, and I remember wanting to weep.  (The production I saw at Trinity Rep featured the amazing Ed Hall, in what turned out to be one of his last performances there, and it may be a moment in the theatre that I never forget.)  Ann's last monologue had a similar feel, and there was a symbolic moment that gave me chills. At the post-discussion, I wondered if that scene was an homage to the Boys Next Door (there are a number of homages and references to other plays, including Macbeth, Hamlet, and Hamilton  -- Eddie says "Talk Less, Shower More")  The cast didn't know, and the playwright wasn't there, so I will ask him on Twitter and report back in the comments.

Ann and Richard go to the school dance.
The play is not actually livestreamed-- it was filmed the day before all the theaters got shut down with a live audience. 

When you buy a ticket, you get an invitation to login to Vimeo about 15 minutes before showtime.  They ask you to start the video at showtime, and then after the show, there is a GoToMeeting Livestream after the event.  I recommend doing that.  It was interesting to talk to the cast, and see other audience members from far away.  (Seattle, Boston, and Calgary were all in the house that night)

Although I would prefer to see a live play, this is the second-best thing.  You get a lot of the experience of the theatre, mediated by your phone, and you never have to leave your house.  The camera barely moves (Equity rules), but they capture all of the action in a way that is almost as good as being in the room.

Teenage Dick will be playing through April 19 at screens in your house.  Tickets are limited by Equity Union rules to 98 per show, so don't miss out.  To purchase tickets, visit the Theater Wit website.

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