Monday, November 9, 2015

The Wrestling Season—OCT’s Young Professionals Co.—NE Portland

Seeking, Me

This teen-angst drama is written by Laurie Brooks and directed by Pat Moran and Zoe Rudman.  It is playing at Oregon Children’s Theatre’s black box space at 1939 NE Sandy Blvd. through November 15th.  For more information, go to their site at www.octc.org

To paraphrase the Bard:  Identity is the means, wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the teens.  An oft-repeated phrase throughout the show is, “You think you know me but you don’t!”  No doubt, true.  A line “grown-ups” love to use toward their kids to show understanding is, “well, I was a kid once, you know.”  But that was then…this is now.  A major difference is the electronic, social media that has exposed society to an unsuspecting world, warts and all.  The intent…to pull people and the world closer …but the result has had just the opposite effect.  By exposing those most vulnerable and yet not completely formed, our Youth, it has created a maelstrom in their search for who they are.

This story all takes place on a wrestling mat, overseen by an omnipresence, a Referee (Emma Weightman), who allows them to hustle and tussle but blows the whistle on them when they are “out of bounds.”  The angst of this world is no different than issues, I’m sure, the actors face in the so-called, “real” world.  The single-minded, Matt (Morgan Fay) is best friends with the shy, Luke (Nate Gardner).  But the friendship is solely questioned when they are purportedly observed “all over each other” in the locker room.  And the witchy Heather (Adie Fecker), enjoying her position as “Miss-Know-It-All,” loves to spread that rumor to her friends, especially her naïve disciple, Nicole (Sierra Kruse).

And, of course, the macho boyfriends of the gals, the oversexed, Jolt (Michael Kepler Meo) and his buddy, the bullish, Willy (Tristan Jackson), escalate the rumor to a more physical nature.  But all is not lost as Matt seeks out a girlfriend in the attractive, Melanie (Sophie MacKay), a girl also with a tarnished “reputation,” and Luke finds solace in a caring lady, Kori (Katie McClanan), who listens and does not judge.  But the climax is a big wrestling match in which prowess may be determined.  The survival of the fittest?  You’ll have to see it.

This may not be the end-all in teen-angst stories but the author, Brooks, certainly seems to know what she is talking about.  And the actors themselves must feel the story fits them.  There have been past stories about “growing pains,” such as The Outsiders and Rumble Fish and the musicals, Grease and Hairspray, but this one concentrates the story on just a few mainstream issues and one setting and lets the ripples spread from there outward.

In school, I was always the one picked last for a team and shunned by the social set.  But I had one advantage that these Youth have, I found the Arts, specifically theatre, as my saving grace.  And it became invaluable to me in realizing my potential.  And so, I say to this Cast, you are one Giant Step ahead of your peers by going forward in this medium.  It teaches you focus, teamwork and gives you confidence in yourself.  And I can’t think of any better artistic path than the one you have here with Dani Baldwin and her incredible team at OCT’s school.  So, in my opinion, dump the electronic venue to find yourself and embrace your fellow artists.  That’s the REAL world.

I couldn’t imagine a better cast to perform this than the one they have.  They are exceptional young actors and, I’m sure, can personally identify with the story and characters in this play.  The directors, too, Moran and Rudman, have kept the play moving at a brisk pace and, I assume, have allowed the teens a lot of leeway in how they approach the characters.  Each one of the roles, also, is very specific in how they’re performed.  I couldn’t imagine a better friend than McClanan’s, Kori and can identify with having a female as a friend, as they often are my best friends.  Your heart goes out to Gardner’s, Luke as the sensitive boy, set apart from the others.

And Fay, as the conflicted, Matt, a person you want to like but has some major anger issues to deal with.  Mackay’s, Melanie seems the most astute of the pack and you want to put your arms around her to shield her from the foibles of mankind.  Fecker, Jackson, Kruse and Meo are the all too familiar bullies of the world and you feel you want to give them a good smack alongside the head, not to injure them but to wake them up to the harm they are doing.  And Weightman does a good job of attempting to keep a sense of order to the proceedings.  They are all spot-on in their performances.

I recommend this show.  Note, it only has one more weekend to perform and this performance was sold out, so get your tickets now.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.