Eugene Weekly : Bravo : 9.23.10


Bravo 2010

Dance Like Everybody’s Watching And sing (or play, or act) as if you’re expecting a full house

Back to School With Online Propositioning Lord Leebrick presents Speech & Debate

Like MTV for Mom Actors Cabaret serves up hit singles 

The Depths and the Heights of Collaboration Adapting by bike, sweat, inspiration and hours of hard work 

Bravo Calendar Dance, Music, Theater 2010-2011


Back to School With Online Propositioning
Lord Leebrick presents Speech & Debate
by Anna Grace

A frumpy, drunker-than-she-meant-to be teenaged girl, engulfed by the nebulous comfort of a beanbag chair, sings freeform of chances lost and the shit-sandwich drama teacher who stole them from her. With a Casio keyboard on pre-record keeping company, the cry is podcast live to anyone who has nothing better to do on a Friday night but listen. And one girl streaming live is heard by two young men, each with his own angst surrounding the school’s drama teacher.

Stephen Karam’s Speech & Debate was inspired by the sex scandal of Jim West, former mayor of Spokane, Wash. (You remember “therightbi-guy” trolling for 18-year-old males online while pushing a right-wing agenda in office?) This play is like the angst-ridden love child of Glee and Little Miss Sunshine. You don’t know whether to laugh or cringe, and you leave concerned rather than cheering.

Often the action takes place with a kid in front of a laptop or on a cell phone, with related images projected on a screen. The techno-storytelling is offset with imaginative, teen-daydream musical and dance numbers. It works marvelously, and it is only when the playwright attempts to employ older, stodgier devices, like dialog, that the play drags a little. 

Brilliantly executing their awkward teenage characters are Chip Sherman (Howie), Rebecca Morus (Diwata) and particularly Evan Marshall as Solomon. Marshall’s conflicted and cocksure school newspaperman is so real, I half expect to see him returning to classes at SEHS after an off campus lunch at Starbucks.

A forewarning: All adults in the play are bad. So if you’re one of the “cool” grown-ups that kids really dig, you won’t find yourself gloriously reflected in this work. Adults are dismissive, predatory and exploitative. Nicely representing the narcissistic underbelly of the adult world is Jane Vogel as the teacher and reporter.

While Speech & Debate is funny, it is by no means uplifting. The lessons learned are to hold it in and sneak around. While the three misfits (kinda) come together in common misery and guilt, their bond never really jells, leaving the audience with a sense of their abject loneliness. The technology that is used to put a band-aid on the wound of solitude only seems to intensify its festering. Speech & Debate keeps you laughing while filling you with the same sense of frustration and confusion its characters feel.

Speech & Debate runs through Oct. 10 at the Lord Leebrick Theatre. Tix at or 465-1506.