Stupid Kids: Welcome To The (Blackboard) Jungle
Have you ever dealt with the urge to laugh at the wrong time? Been unable to tell if someone was joking or not? This was the awkward situation I dealt with during the Sturm Und Drang production of Stupid Kids. The play by the late John C. Russell is a high school melodrama set in the 80's and reminiscent of Rebel Without a Cause.
Four students from
Neeche and Kimberly scheme to get Jim and Judy together, so as to overthrow the current school status quo and validate their own social standings, while still nursing their feelings for the shallow golden pair. Jim wants Judy initially as much out of a lust for power as for plain lust. Judy seems confused and somewhat ambivalent ("I deserve to screw someone, and here are two boys who desire me… I should probably screw one of them."). There are "tribals" (some sort of gang rumble), drug scenes, bizarre primitive rituals, and, er, dance sequences.
John C. Russell died in 1994 at the age of 31, having been a member of various new playwrights' groups, and a number of his plays produced in
I've been trying desperately to figure out if I disliked this play, or the production. As I said at the start, it was unclear how seriously we were supposed to take these "stupid kids". True, the angst and pretension rang true, and I'm certain that some of the melodrama was intended to be laughable, but when clashing with the later scenes of earnestness, I felt like I might be guffawing when I was supposed to be touched. Moments where we're presumably supposed to be laughing at the characters makes feeling for them at other times difficult. For example, Neeche and Kimberly both deliver impassioned poems about their secret loves. I was cracking up at Neeches' lines "Underneath the mask/ I burn Anarchy and Fire/ And the velocity of poetry". I can't tell if the poem is really that awful intentionally, or if it was just Mr. Leshs' delivery that made it seem hilarious.<