A work about a 15-year high school reunion sounds like a writing class assignment from hell. How can you tackle it without falling into cliché? Yet the combination of a sensitive script by Allyson Currin and a fine ensemble performance make Late Bloomers and Glory Days an enjoyable dramatic offering.
Fifteen years ago, the high schoolers that mattered included golden boy Russ (Roger Payano), his drama club diva girlfriend Teresa (Lisa Margarita Nadal), the football jock Byron (Doug Wilder at this performance), his head cheerleader girlfriend Shelley (Leigh Anna Fry), and the preppie Jack (Karl Bittner). Add in two former nerds, the successful corporate executive Norma (Samantha Merrick) and the still charmingly nerdish Todd (Dane C. Petersen) and you’ve got an assortment of characters right out of the John Hughes’ film catalog.
Yet Currin hits the audience upfront with the fact that Russ is a wheelchair-bound paraplegic from a graduation-era car accident, using it for both the more serious character conflicts and frequent humor. While a major disclosure about that tragic night is set up, the ultimate success of the work comes from the strong character performances more than any major life-changing plot developments.
Late Bloomers and Glory Days has a solid cast. While a couple of the performances are a little mannered at the start, all of the actors relax into their roles and become more convincing as the story progresses. Payano was consistently intriguing and captivating, Fry gave her role special depth, and Petersen’s Wookie fetish was a comedic highlight.
I have never been to a school reunion that was this eventful or entertaining. While the story is familiar and hardly fringy, Late Bloomers and Glory Days demonstrates that talent can overcome cliché.
Late Bloomers and Glory Days
by Allyson Currin
Directed by Jessica North Macie
Produced by Actors Repertory Theatre andThe National Conservatory of Dramatic Arts
Reviewered by Steven McKnight
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