by Shirley Lorraine
Richard III Reimagined in “Teenage Dick”
Imagine a world in which everyone was respected for who they are and what they can contribute to humanity. Now imagine a highly hormonal group of high schoolers as they traverse the challenging path of becoming comfortable with themselves and establishing their own identities. These two factors, while seemingly contradictory, are the basis for the Elite Theater Company’s current production of “Teenage Dick” now playing on the main stage.
Written by Mike Lew, the story is a loose reimagining of Shakespeare’s Richard III from the viewpoint of a disgruntled disabled teen and the injustices he perceives to avenge. He, himself, is contradictory, sometimes using his disability as a shield to gain extra perks and sympathies, yet sometimes using his perceived failings to fuel his insecurities and ultimately as a way for him to justify his vengeance.
An excellent student, Dick is also manipulative, bitter and self-serving in his quest to oust the current student body president, a snarky popular jock named Eddie. Eddie clearly thinks the world revolves around him and actively dismisses anyone he feels doesn’t measure up to his greatness. To add to the mix there is Clarissa, a young lady who relies on her faith to guide her in all she does and Anne, a pretty, popular, dance enthusiast who has her own sad story to tell.
Dick’s wise-cracking friend Buck is wheelchair-bound yet carries a quite different attitude about life. She accepts her limitations, collaborates well with them, and simply wants to be friends with everyone. Her wheelchair manipulation skills are impressive.
In other words, a typical day in a high school, filled with angst, doubt, insecurity and braggadocio.
Richard’s character delivers an admirable froth of Shakespearean quotations (some mildly paraphrased), firmly establishing yet another way he is different from the rest of the students.
The production, directed by Hayley Silvers, is partly double cast, giving many young actors an opportunity to take the stage. Check the company’s website for specifics of who plays whom on various performance dates.
Opening night’s cast featured AJ Ma as Richard, Rey Sailer as Buck and Kyra McConnell as Clarissa. Tatiana Juarez as Anne, Theo Liscotti Rodriguez as Eddie and Dolores Dyer Castellano as teacher Elizabeth remain constant throughout.
The play provides an interesting viewpoint of Shakespeare’s dastardly disabled villain in a light of introspection and the questioning minds of youth.
Castellano’s solid portrayal of the harried junior class teacher provides numerous opportunities for laughter, highlighting the thin line a teacher must tread interacting with students of all types, abilities and temperaments.
Sunday performance on July 30 features a special talk back time with the cast following the show. As in Richard III, the original, the play is harsh and disturbing, both in language and content.
Teenage Dick continues through August 21. Performances are Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., Sundays at 2 p.m. and Thursday, August 17 at 8 p.m. www.theElite.org. Channel Islands, Oxnard.