Unlike so many of its past efforts, The House Theatre’s newest show (conceived and directed by Nathan Allen, with a script by Chris Matthews and Jake Minton) never feels overwhelmed by its ambitions. And yet it still retains that House gestalt—a combination of youthful levity and wistfulness, layered over reconstituted pop iconography. The results go down nice and easy, in large part due to the play’s high-school setting and its cheery-dreary storyline about a brooding, reclusive teenage girl with telekinetic powers. At school, the head cheerleader takes this broken spirit under her wing, and the phrase “Elphaba redux” comes to mind. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Many, many people like “Wicked” (though I am not one of them), and will recognize the conflict that arises from the dark girl with scary powers versus the peppy blonde with sparkly powers. But recycling is part of House’s M.O. anyway, and the relationship is executed with a lot of heart and skill (Paige Hoffman’s cheerleader is the furthest thing from one-dimensional). And who doesn’t like a nuanced take on frenemies? Despite the bright colors and bright performances—and some very low-key but funny microphone work from the school principal, played by Stephen Taylor—there is a pervasive current of sadness that gives the show its heft. That, and witty writing. When a student mumbles, “I’m embarrassed,” her biology teacher replies: “I heard ‘reimbursed.’” The line is delivered with perfect timing by Cliff Chamberlain, who, like Hoffman, takes a cliché (the cool teacher) and expands it beyond expectations. The show doesn’t have anything new to say about teen angst, but that might be the nature of the beast. High school is a bitch. (Nina Metz)
This production is now closed.