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BWW Review: TEENAGE DICK at The Seattle Rep

Exciting and Fresh retelling of “Richard III”.

BWW Review: TEENAGE DICK at The Seattle Rep
Meme García, MacGregor Arney, and
Michael Monicatti in Teenage Dick at Seattle Rep.
Photo credit: Nate Watters

The provocative title, "Teenage Dick", for the current show at the Seattle Rep is giving some people pause while others just find it hilarious. Yes, I'm sure it's intentionally provocative to get attention and yes, it's funny. But it's just the nickname for the main character, Richard, and he is a teenager, so let's get the giggles out of our system now. I'll wait. All good now? OK, Dear Readers, now I can tell you all about this incredible show and how I was left super excited for "Teenage Dick". Dammit! I guess it wasn't all out yet.

We're basically looking at a retelling of Shakespeare's "Richard III" but in a modern way. Richard Gloucester (MacGregor Arney) is a Junior at Roseland High School. He's a young man with Cerebral Palsy but he doesn't let his affliction stop him, in fact he often uses it to his own advantage. A little too smart and ambitious for his own good, he's currently the Secretary of the Junior class but has his sights set on winning the election for President of the Senior class. But to win he'll need to defeat the popular and handsome but dimwitted jock Eddie Ivy (Michael Monicatti), the current Junior class President, and the devout Clarissa Duke (Meme Garcia), the Junior class Vice-President. It won't be easy but using some Machiavellian tactics, he's certain he can eliminate his enemies.

Transplanting Shakespeare to another time, place, or circumstance can be tricky at best (do we really need "Hamlet" set in space or an all nude "Macbeth"?) but author Mike Lew has managed it artfully. He's not just jammed the Shakespearean text into a modern-day high school, although Richard does have a tendency to utilize the flowery language, but has brought over the crux of the story and incorporated it to fit into modern issues. The eventual downfall of his foes doesn't need to involve imprisonment or assassination, instead we deal with bad grades and Twitter shaming. But beyond the cleverness of the adaptation, the show is just plain smart, with crisp dialog and relatable, complex characters. All this is only amplified by some fantastic direction from Malika Oyetimein, as well as some killer dance choreography and fight choreography from Chip Sherman and Ian Bond.

BWW Review: TEENAGE DICK at The Seattle Rep
Rheanna Atendido and MacGregor Arney
in Teenage Dick at Seattle Rep.
Photo credit: Nate Watters

But it's this outstanding cast that completely sells every single nuance of this show. Each one plays their high school archetype perfectly. Garcia handles that somewhat annoying and in your face teen girl with unwavering commitment. Monicatti is that affable dumb jock that everyone loves, except his victims, and his final moments of the play especially that aforementioned fight sequence with Arney were entirely too harrowing and real looking and amped up the stakes of the show immensely. Meredith Aleigha Wells as Barbara Buckingham, Richard's comrade in arms and fellow physically challenged student brings in a fantastic conscience to the relationship. Rheanna Atendido as Anne Margaret, the apex of the Richard/Eddie love triangle, not only managed some incredible chemistry with Arney but also some fabulous moves. And Erika Vetter as the school advisor with her own agenda, Elizabeth York, not only brought the comedy but I'm sure the attitudes many of our teachers today would echo.

But the show is called "Teenage Dick" and so without a good Dick ... er ... Richard, the show would just go limp. (Damn, there I go again. It's just so hard not to make those jokes. Get it? Hard?). But juvenility aside, I can't imagine a better Richard than Arney. Sure, he fits the bill with the disability but beyond that, he has oodles of stage presence, he's super expressive as he's able to convey volumes with just a side eye, and he's just plain funny. He navigates the razors edge of the role with the expertise of a tightrope walker as he stays likable while scheming and basically committing some heinous acts. A truly wonderful performance.

I was somewhat dubious about this one with its blatant title and attempt to retell Shakespeare, but every single fear has been put to rest with this superb work. And so, with my three-letter rating system, I give "Teenage Dick" an enormous YAY+. You definitely want to get out there and get excited to see some "Teenage Dick". (OK, that's the last one.)

"Teenage Dick" performs at the Seattle Rep through April 3rd. For tickets or information, visit them online at www.seattlerep.org.



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From This Author - Jay Irwin