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BWW Review: Vichet Chum Brings Back the Early 2000's to The Alley Theatre

Now onstage at the Alley Theatre in Houston, Texas

BWW Review: Vichet Chum Brings Back the Early 2000's to The Alley Theatre
Daniel Velasco,SABRINA KOSS,
Photo by Lynn Lane

High School Theater is insane. It's meant for the insane. It invites insanity.

The story of Vichet Chum's High School Play revolves around the Texas UIL program but it's also about everything. If you have any sort of experience with High School Theater then this play will likely speak to you. Without getting too personal, there's an early scene where the theater students all gather at a deli. Except, they don't go to a deli, it's a coffee shop. I kept calling it "the deli" in my mind because that's where my troop all hung out. It was genuinely difficult to not associate what was happening on stage with a familiar environment.

The play deals with issues of race, religion, sexuality, community, competition, and jealousy. The strongest aspect of the piece is how it uses the ensemble of students to represent these themes respectfully and intelligently. The constant motif of the "original oratory" allows each of the six main characters to have a moment to express their inner feelings. As a result, they become much more relatable and three-dimensional.

The standout for many audience members was Ricardo Davila as Rich. Here they portray an effeminate gay character largely for comedy, but with one particular emotional gut-punch of a monologue that betrays the pain fueling the character's sassy exterior. With a different actor, this character could have felt like a complete stereotype, but Ricardo brought so much truth to the stage that the character instead felt distinctly familiar. Taking the High School competition way too seriously, being the "gay best friend" to the girls, the sassy comments. It reminded me of a few friends who were still finding themselves.

There's harshness at the center of the piece. It depicts teachers unaware of how they mentally abuse their students, it reveals a community of Texas Christians to be cold and uncaring, and there are multiple references to self-harm. The play wisely blankets itself in a veneer of comedy and overt silliness. I wouldn't dare spoil how act one ends, but in a way, it made me nostalgic for the more positive side of being a teenager. A time when it really didn't matter how silly you behaved. Sometimes it was okay to forget about your problems and just listen to Britney Spears.

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