Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Speech and Debate dramatizes high school witch hunt

Posted By on Wed, Apr 29, 2009 at 9:00 PM

click to enlarge FOR THE SAKE OF ARGUMENT: Howie (Jeremy Ledbetter, from left), Solomon (Nick Arapoglou), and Diwata (Maria Sager)
  • FOR THE SAKE OF ARGUMENT: Howie (Jeremy Ledbetter, from left), Solomon (Nick Arapoglou), and Diwata (Maria Sager)

Theatre in the Square's Speech & Debate depicts high schoolers in Salem, Ore., who frequently draw comparisons to the Salem, Mass., witch hunts when they discuss censorship or other forms of public persecution. In real life, America's teens in towns named Salem doubtless play that overly dramatic card every chance they get, too.

Speech & Debate playwright Stephen Karam appreciates the complexities of the teenage experience, and the many ways young people can be at once wise and naïve, experienced and immature. Karam knows how kids interact in an age of Googling and instant messaging. Speech & Debate has the promising premise of a high school sex scandal juxtaposed with a laughable, musical version of Arthur Miller's The Crucible. The script proves surprisingly convoluted, however, and the production at Theatre in the Square's Alley Stage, directed by Clint Thornton, struggles to keep it clear. Speech & Debate feels like a play caught in that adolescent awkward stage.

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(Photo courtesy Theatre in the Square/MJ Conboy)

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