The world according to dweebs

Posted 11/10/08

“I saw this play in New York and it reminded me of why I’m in the theater,” said Curious Theatre artistic director Chip Walton by way of …

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The world according to dweebs


“I saw this play in New York and it reminded me of why I’m in the theater,” said Curious Theatre artistic director Chip Walton by way of introduction to “Speech and Debate” at the Nov. 1 opening, adding that there would be a prom after the funny show about three misfit teens in Salem Oregon who each hold a link to a local sex scandal.

They connect in school and their solution to a need to communicate, and to figure out who they are, is to start a speech and debate team, sharing considerable skills.

Internet connections pop up as though written on a chalk board through Todd Webster’s clever video work.

The play opens with Howie, who claims he came out at 10, played with charm and attitude by Steven J. Burge, exchanging notes in a gay chat room — keyboard clacking as words appear— with a person who turns out to be the school drama teacher.

Enter Solomon, Glen Moore, an earnest, moralistic, conflicted wannabe journalist who wishes to write about controversial subjects such as a gay sex, abortion, etc. for the school paper, but is, of course, discouraged by his teacher (Rhonda Brown, who also plays a reporter later).

The third part of the triangle is theatrical Diwata , wonderfully played by Heritage High graduate Laura Jo Trexler, a frustrated actress, who can’t get a part in the school plays.

Stephen Karam’s comedy, which is in production as a film, has some dark edges, and is still a bit rough in structure, but the dialogue is sharp and funny and reinforces appreciation for the theater, music and debate team kids who may be labeled “dweebs” by the mainstream students. The audience laughed steadily as these skilled young actors came up with one zinger after another, perfectly timed.

Director Dee Covington, who works with teens in Curious’ outreach programs, has a good feel for the scattered, yet intense sort of kids Karam created here.

Among the topics they make fun of is the high school sex education class, which tell them not to let anyone touch them in the “bathing suit areas!” Right.

Karam, still in his 20s, said, in an interview with a Los Angeles critic, that he was writing plays in the basement at 16 and sending them off to contest, versus playing sports. His previously performed “columbinus” was based on the tragedy at Columbine High School and again looked into the minds of misfit kids. He shows a real skill in portraying the angst and quirky humor of teens.

“Speech and Debate” by Stephen Karam plays through Dec. 13 at Curious Theatre Company, 1080 Acoma St., Denver’s Golden Triangle. Performances: 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays. Tickets: $27 (2 for 1 Thursdays), 303-623-0524 or online


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