“There’s the story people tell about you…and then there’s the story you tell about yourself.” Good Kids is a gut-wrenching examination of victim blaming and the role of social media in modern ‘he said/she said’ situations. Both timely and timeless, Theatre Prometheus’s production of this remarkable play will leave a strong impression on all who see it.
The play is based on the 2012 Steubenville High School rape case; a tragedy in which a female student was sexually assaulted by her peers in small-town Ohio. The incident was documented on social media by its participants and the case received attention in the national news.
Good Kids follows a similarly tragic storyline. Emily Kranking is absorbing as our narrator, Deirdre. She guides us throughout the ordeal, fast forwarding and rewinding the action so we can fully investigate the situation from every angle. Playwright Naomi Iizuka’s narrative moves effortlessly back and forth in time and director Lauren Patton’s execution of the script is excellent.
We meet a group of friends from Hoover High School’s beloved football team, the Mustangs: Landon, Ty, and Tanner (Vince Boykins, Smithchai Chutchainon and Emmanuel Kyei-Baffour) including star player Connor (Brendan McMahon). The boys appear to be typical high school jocks, but we find that they are as nuanced and complicated as are all the characters in Good Kids.
The play is utterly, perfectly cast. All of the actors deliver jaw-dropping performances, led by Ife Johnson’s powerful portrayal of Chloe, the victim of everyone’s misdirected scorn. The whole cast draws laughs from the audience throughout the play, despite the heavy subject matter. The actors parlay lines with impeccable timing and represent their high school prototypes while avoiding caricature: the jocks, the mean girls, the freaks and outcasts.
Written by Naomi Iizuka
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The students’ stories are supported by clever and well-executed musical interludes and the ersatz Facebook and Twitter pages projected behind the actors.
Amber’s parents are out of town and she’s throwing a fateful party that students of Hoover High are desperate to attend. Amber (Renea Brown) states emphatically, “No freaks!” This is going to be the most memorable party of the year and it doesn’t need to be tainted by the presence of the uncool.
New girl Kylie (Hilary Kelly) is invited to the party; her cousin Chloe (Ife Johnson) begs to go along, even though she’s “a random” who goes to North Central High. Chloe wants to bring along her best friend, Daphne (Grace Baker), but she isn’t cool enough to make the cut. Skyler (Diane Samuelson), is not invited because she is a high school “freak,” but has plenty to say about the situation from afar.
Chloe has one too many drinks at the party and begins to embarrass her cousin. “Who is this girl?’ everyone asks. “What is she wearing?” Mean-girl cheerleaders Brianna (Kelsey Murphy) and Madison (Alexandra Bunger-Pool) are quick to gang up with Amber and they all take turns criticizing the uninvited girl and her “slutty” ways. “Girls like that deserve everything they get,” they say. Desperate girls who show too much skin and get “sloppy drunk” are asking to be preyed upon.
The boys look on lecherously. Everyone know that girls who dress “slutty” are easy, right? Both the boys and girls concede that drunk girls who dress or dance too suggestively are asking for it. Tanner acts as many of us would: watching his friends, not wanting to go along with what everyone says, but not wanting to speak up and put his social standing in jeopardy.
We all know what happens after this. Connor and Chloe have two different versions of the story. Everyone else has their own version as well. What is the truth? The play examines our tendency to put the onus on women and victims of sexual assault. How quickly we jump to criticize individuals when we are the ones who put pressure on others to act a certain way.
The play reminds us that just because you’re “a good kid,” doesn’t mean that terrible things can’t happen to you or that you can’t do terrible things to others. Everyone is human. This is a great script, great production and a must-see in this year’s Capital Fringe Festival.
Good Kids by Naomi Iizuka. Director: Lauren Patton. Producer: Tracey Erbacher. Stage Manager: Jess Lucey. Dramaturg: Abigail Ropp. Lighting Designer; E-Hui Woo. Projections Designer: Hope Villanueva. Sound Designer: Robert Pike. Assistant Stage Manager: Noah Guthman. Production Manager: Backy Mezzanotte. Graphic Designer: Yannick Godts. Featuring: Renea Brown, Kelsey Murphy, Ife Johnson, Brendan McMahon, Grace Baker, Emily Kranking, Hilary Kelly, Vince Boykins, Alexandra Bunger-Pool, Diane Samuelson, Emmanuel Kyei-Baffour, Smithchai Chutchainon. Running time: 90 minutes. Recommended for ages 13 and up. This show contains profanity. Reviewed by K. McDermott.