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SPEECH AND DEBATE presented by UC College-Conservatory of Music Drama on Nov. 6-8. Click here for more information on the production. I attended the Saturday matinee performance.
Talk about not being able to judge a book by its cover…or in this case a play by its show description and video trailer. To be truthful, my expectations were a little confused about SPEECH AND DEBATE. I wasn’t sure how those two things fit together. What I wasn’t expecting, was to walk out of the theater about 100 minutes later, having seen one of the best shows of the season.
The script is laugh-out-loud funny, surprising, touching and very well-written by Pulitzer-prize nominated playwright Stephen Karam. The show features excellent direction by Richard E. Hess, and is extremely well-cast with a committed and fearless leading trio.
Both Sarah Davenport as Teacher and Colleen Ladrick as Reporter gave strong, supporting performances and were able to “age-up” their characters into believable, young adults.
Owen Alderson as Solomon, Ryan Garrett as Howie and Katie Langham as Diwata all give outstanding performances. Their characterizations are fully-realized, honest and relate-able. Their interactions and relationships build naturally and together the three of them have a wonderful synergy on stage.
The character of Diwata is the linchpin of the show. She in a huge, loud personality and it is her actions that bring the three together and then cajoles/bullies/blackmails the other two, into joining her speech and debate team. Langham does amazing work, making Diwata a unique and memorable character whose bravado, humor and vulnerability doesn’t get lost in the exuberance of the character or upstage her fellow actors.
The simple set design (not credited in the program) with the three bedrooms upstage and several classroom desks downstage worked well. Assistant director Patrick Kevin was also responsible for designing the projections that injected some fun visuals into several scenes.
Overall, my biggest complaint is that the run was not longer, so more people could see this excellent production.
My rating: 4.75 out of 5
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