Monday, January 14, 2019

Teenage Dick—Artists Rep—SW Portland

Season of our Discontent
This topical play is written by Mike Lew and directed by Josh Hecht.  It is playing at their space, 1515 SW Morrison St., through February 3rd.  For more information, go to their site at

Our “salad days,” or our teen years, are meant to be the course in which we discover ourselves and have the youth to enjoy it.  At one time, that may have been true.  But, no more.  Electronics have invaded this sacred space and now we are subject to its bidding.  It is said that “Youth is wasted on the young” and nowadays that may be all too true.  To be fair, though, there are many, like those Youth that openly oppose misuse of weapons, and those that are fighting for the right for a cleaner environment.  To those chosen few, I salute!

But we have become slaves to technology and it has run/ruined our lives.  We have become a product of others views of us and, if continuing unchecked, it will devour our souls, our essence “and leave not a wit behind.”  In this case, a “mis-shapened” being, cast as an outcast, and then villain, only because he doesn’t look like the majority.  And so, Richard (Christopher Imbrosciano), like his Shakespearean counter-part, if he cannot be the hero of his story, then will play its nemesis to the hilt.

Richard is a sly dog, not content to fade into the woodwork, but chooses instead to run for President of the school council, but on the quiet.  He has a cohort, of sorts, in a wheel-chair bound lady, “Buck,” (Tess Raunig), who encourages him to run against the popular jock, Eddie (Nick Ferrucci), who has skated by on his looks, popularity and being the star quarterback.  It may be that when the gods made him, brains were only an option, not chosen. 

He also discovers an odd ally in the “bible-thumping,” Clarissa (Alex Ramirez de Cruz), who takes her hatred of sinners way too far.  And his teacher/mentor, Elizabeth (Ayanna Berkshire), knows he has a brain and so encourages his thrust into the limelight.    Only one bridge left to cross, Eddie’s old girlfriend, Anne (Kailey Rhodes), Ms. Popularity.  If he could only win her over and achieve the presidency, then his revenge will be complete on those that had ridiculed him.

But circumstances may have another Fate in store for our…man-of-the-hour.  And, as the Bard also noted, revenge is a plate best served cold.  And the outcomes of all these maneuvers…well, you’ll just have to see for yourselves, won’t you?!  This would be the point that I should warn you of the story’s adult nature, which it has, but I believe it should be seen by teens and any discerning adults, as there are lessons here to be learned and truths to be discovered.

The story skirts Shakespeare’s Richard III but mostly in names, some similar situations and the monologues of Richard.  The important connection is how relevant it is to today’s Youth, with all its gossip, bullying, prejudices, identity conflicts, etc. and its effect on others, often with tragic results.  If we are ever to break out of the molds others have created for us, then we must rise to the occasion, and find a safe environment, like the Arts, where we can explore the unique gifts we have been given to share with the world.

Hecht has chosen well a cast for some difficult roles and allowed them and the script to reveal the powerful stories underneath. Imbrosciano achieves just the right kind of balance between dark humor and outright evil, and yet also manages to wring more than a little sympathy for his character.  Rhodes is also excellent as the seeming airhead who does have some very real dreams beneath her attractive exterior, and secrets that would try any soul.  She is also a very accomplished dancer.  Kudos to both of them.

I recommend this play.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.

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