The irony is too delicious to pass up. There are a lot of good kids on stage at the Reilly Theatre right now — not just good kids, but good performers. But they’re not good enough to save “Good Kids.”
If poorly organized screeds against easy targets are your thing, this LSU Theatre production is right up your alley. It is earnest to the point of preachiness, which might be forgivable, considering the topic.
Written by Naomi Iizuka and directed by Richard Holden, it is based on a true and disgusting story, the sexual abuse of a drunken teenage girl by at least two high school football players. Although the community’s name is changed, there is no mistaking its relationship to the scandal in Steubenville, Ohio, which resulted in two assailants being convicted in juvenile court of raping a minor.
The story became national news, in part because the assailants and some of their friends took photos that were sent to friends on social media, facts that ultimately played a big role in convicting the defendants.
Some in the community rallied behind the accused instead of the accuser, who was from another town (in the Steubenville case, from another state). Thus, the play’s title, suggesting the facts might be ambiguous enough to create this dramatic tension, that the situation was misunderstood.
That may or may not have been the case in Steubenville. But it doesn’t remotely work in the play, because, unlike in real life, the audience sees everything.
Not that Iizuka doesn’t try, creating differing versions of events, some suggesting the girl was more eager to party with the football players, some suggesting she was coerced.
But no version makes any reasonable excuse for the boys abusing an unconscious girl.
Their protestations of innocence are impossible to take seriously.
And, those very efforts to create alternate realities cause a herky-jerky rhythm to this 100-minute, one-act play.
Maja Dupas portrays Deirdre, the blogger/narrator, who often comes on stage to pause the action then, maddeningly, rewind it.
The play raises some good points along the way, such as how the intersection of teen boredom, hook-up culture and the status of small-town football players contribute to the atmosphere that deludes the boys into behaving as they did. Mix that with a heavy-handed “it could happen to you” theme and it wouldn’t have been surprising if the play had ended with an altar call.
In the midst of all this, there are some shining moments. Laine Korn is outstanding as Chloe, the victimized girl, alternately sexually confident and vulnerable.
The other major roles are ably handled — her assailants, testosterone-fueled Ty (played by Scott Mitchell) and the sly Connor (Trey Tycer); their encourager, Landon (Dexter Ellis); weak-willed teammate Tanner (Austin Ventura); whistleblower Skyler (Erin Sheets); mean girl Amber (Cydney Mitchell), and Chloe’s mousy friend, Daphne (Amber Rozas).
They, along with Katherine Kelly, Devin Williams and Meg Grey, can dance, too. When the party at Amber’s house gets rolling, there is a wonderful routine that shows some acrobatic steps by much of the cast.
It was a brief but welcome break from the angst of the subject and the disunity of the plot line.