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The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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    Pocket Theatre exposes (fictional) professor’s lies

    Jules Mayard performs for Pocket Theatre's "Speech and Debate." (Max Wei / The Statesman)

    Pocket Theatre put on its main stage production, “Speech & Debate,” on Nov. 18, 19 and 20 at the Wang Center Theater.

    On closing night, approximately 30 people filed into the Wang Center Theater. Upon entering, the audience found a barren setting in front of them. A chair was placed facing a projector screen at the back of the stage.

    “Speech & Debate,” by Stephen Karam, is the story of three high school students who unite to expose their drama teacher, who preys on teenage boys. They do this by performing a “group interpretation,” which is how the characters refer to their performance for the speech and debate club, which they are the only members of. Each of the members has a secret that comes to light throughout the show. The show is a musical with some dark humor.

    The lights in the auditorium dimmed as a student entered and sat, back to the stage, on his computer.  His conversation with a complete stranger was projected on the screen. As the background music increased, so did the intensity. This was cut short as the student sent flirtatious jokes to his “new friend.” The unknown friend asked the student to send a picture of himself. The student sent a picture of a small child instead. When the student realized that he is actually speaking to his high school drama teacher after recognizing his email address, he turned around with his jaw dropped. He said nothing and the scene ended. This transition from witty to serious set the tone for the rest of the show.

    Howie, the student on the computer in the opening scene, is an openly gay student who just transferred to a new school. Jules Mayard, a freshman majoring in political science on a pre-med track, brought Howie’s character to life excellently. He managed to show Howie’s nervousness about being in a new school while still clearly showing his disdain for his current situation of knowing the actions of his teacher.

    “I liked it,” said Brian Liu, a freshman pharmacology student.  “I saw a new side of my friend [Mayard] that I never thought I would see.”

    Solomon, another member of the trio, was played Taylor Cvelkovich, a freshman majoring in theater arts.Solomon writes for his school paper and wishes to write about more controversial issues, such as abortion and the town mayor’s sex scandal. He voices these opinions to his teacher, frequently referencing “The Statesman Journal.” Upon hearing accusations against the drama teacher, he jumps at the opportunity to write something provocative. Cvetkovich stepped into Solomon’s shoes with ease by highlighting the character’s nerdy lust for hot journalism and slowly but surely revealing the character’s secrets.

    Diwata is an overdramatic thespian played by Hillary Steinberg.  Steinberg is a freshman majoring in biology and sociology on a pre-veterinary tract.  Her character, Diwata, is captain of the Speech and Debate team.   It is revealed during the show that she was recently seen at an abortion clinic after having lost her virginity wearing only a sweatshirt. Steinberg delivered a powerful performance as a misunderstood teenager who will only keep Howie’s and Solomon’s dirty little secrets of homosexuality and inappropriate conduct with teachers if they agree to compete with the Speech and Debate team.

    This play was directed by Neha Gandhi, a freshman psychology major.  “A director is like an artist, and like any other artist, a director is never completely satisfied. The overall performances went well, and they came as close to being my vision as they possibly could,” said Gandhi.

    Gandhi is definitely an artist who casted a fantastic team, and the show was put together well. The set was simple yet effective, forcing the audience to pay more attention to the actors on stage rather than the furniture they were sitting on. The scene transitions were a bit questionable.  Gandhi’s choice to add Mariachi-type music to add “a little spice” left audience members confused. This could have been confusing because the scene changes seemed a bit slow.

    Otherwise, the overall production seemed excellent.  Pocket Theatre meets during Campus Lifetime in SAC 312.

    Its next moment in the spotlight will be “Staged Readings” on Dec. 1 in the Tabler Black Box Theater.

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