Wednesday, June 30, 2010

GableStage: Speech & Debate (3 reviews)

GableStage opened the southeastern professional premiere of Stephen Karam's Speech & Debate on June 19, 2010.
This fiercely funny comedy with music asks: what do a high school debate team, predators in cyberspace and a musical version of Arthur Miller's The Crucible have in common? The answer: three teenagers who are wrestling with sex, lies and YouTube videos in this off-Broadway comic hit.
Amy London directed a cast that included Jackie Rivera, Patti Gardner, Ryan Didato and David Dearstyne.

The Sun-Sentinel has declined to review this production.*

Hap Erstein reviewed for Palm Beach ArtsPaper:
...Stephen Karam demonstrates his skill with contemporary dialogue and the angst of today’s youth in the breezy,‭ ‬comic‭ ‬Speech and Debate.

While more lightweight than GableStage’s usual fare,‭ ‬the production demonstrates the company’s continued interest in new talent‭ ‬--‭ ‬introducing Karam to South Florida as well as three fresh-faced performers who have recently graduated from Miami’s New World School of the Arts.
‬In a rare sidestep,‭ ‬artistic director Joe Adler hands over the staging chores to Amy London,‭ ‬who makes some headway in giving the episodic tale some dramatic shape.
‬Rivera has genuine star quality,‭ ‬a charismatic bundle of energy with terrific comic timing and an underlying vulnerability.‭
...‬Karam is a writer to keep an eye on and Rivera is the reason to see the production at GableStage.
Roger Martin reviewed for
Directed by Amy London and using recent New World graduates David Dearstyne, Ryan Didato, and Jackie Rivera with Patti Gardner supplying a little adult sanity, this latest GableStage show whirls furiously and hilariously through the machinations of three high schoolers trying to get cast in a high school play (Diwata), publish newspaper stories about the Mayor and certain young men (Solomon) and troll the gay forums in search of love (Howie).

If this sounds like a Glee knock-off, be aware that Stephen Karam has crystal balls, premiering his piece Off-Broadway in 2007, two years before Glee lit up the TV.
This is a fun show, one that melds the hilarious with the serious with no detriment to either.
Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
For this production, artistic director Joseph Adler has handed off the director's job to Amy London, who gets sharp performances from seasoned pro Gardner (even in the ridiculously written part of the reporter) and a trio of recent New World School of the Arts grads.
Dearstyne, Didato and Rivera easily nail the self-absorption of high school kids. They're hilarious in a dance number that has them stripping down to flesh-colored undies, sheer agony registering on Didato's face. Dearstyne, a very good actor, deliberately comes off as awkward when Howie plays Abraham Lincoln as a gay teen. And Rivera... is deliciously over-the-top as Diwata...
Karam and GableStage turn the play into a crazily entertaining ride.
Speech & Debate plays at GableStage through July 18, 2010.

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