Updated: Mar 18, 2019
★★★½☆'s - Satisfying
Naomi Iizuka’s Good Kids is a nonpareil ensemble piece that is getting a top tier staging at Nevada Conservatory Theatre.
Director Darren Weller has staged a restless, constantly morphing production that is uncompromisingly compelling and disturbingly contemporary, mirroring today’s headlines.
The plot concerns Chloe, a free spirited, sexually active high school student. At a liquor-infused party, Chloe can’t remember what happened, but she wakes up in a strange basement, unclothed. Everyone is talking about it. In a world of Twitter and Facebook, documentation of a group sexual encounter gone bad is shared and re-tweeted. We are not sure whose version of the events to believe.
It is hard to believe that the film "The Accused" with Jodie Foster exposed this same scenario almost thirty years ago. The current headlines about Weinstein, the Access Hollywood tape, and the Me, Too campaign sadly reveal that not much has changed. A program note disturbingly relates one in four women, and one in five men on college campuses will be sexually assaulted.
Mr. Weller has made a riveting case for Ms. Iizuka’s opus, which is characterized by non-linear storytelling. There are flashbacks, instant replays (or resets) galore, and searing personal encounters. Weller makes dramatic sense of the mosaic of impressions the script presents. He has developed a very distinctive characterization with each actor, and his fluid staging is a mesmerizing choreography that moves the show along in a performance space that is configured in a thrust set-up, with the audience on three sides of the action.
There are numerous sections of layered, choral recitation and Darren has paced these with laser like precision. But his greatest achievement may be the timing and inventiveness of the execution, mollifying some of the more repetitive segments of the writing.
The ensemble playing was flat out superb. A talented team of actors was unified in their effort to create a meaningful realization of this potent drama. Nonetheless, they made indelible impressions in their solo contributions.
As the central lead Chloe, Kristina Wells anchors the show, by turns appealing and appalling. Ms. Wells is freewheeling, uninhibited in her hedonism, and ultimately tragic in her fate. It is notoriously hard to play drunk, and if she does not always completely succeed, when it counts, she delivered a meaningful impersonation.
As her friend Daphne, Isabella Rooks was solid and appealing, more engaging in her dramatic declamations than her giggling comradery, which was a bit forced. Tola Lawal’s Amber was a volatile, opinionated, imperious Drama Queen, served up with sass and class. Caroline Sanchez was a fine Brianna, a spoiled cheerleader type who was in denial that a rape had occurred. Ruliko Cronin made the most of her “tough girl” persona as Madison, impressing with some contentious confrontations and her total commitment. Diminutive Christina Harvey was a spunky victim as Chloe’s cousin Kylie. Wheelchair bound Sarah Rice started out a bit acidic as the ersatz-narrator Deirdre, but won me over as the show went on, becoming a surprising Deus (Dea?) ex machina by show’s conclusion. As the “conscience” of the show, Lauren Tauber was an impressively affecting Skyler.