Naomi Iizuka’s play Good Kids, performed by the Theatre Group at SBCC at the Jurkowitz Theatre, is based on the troubling incidents that occurred in 2012 in Steubenville, Ohio, when members of a high school football team sexually assaulted an intoxicated student at a party and shared photos and videos of their acts via social media. The play unfolds like a town-hall debate or an Internet comments section, with a chorus of disparate voices proclaiming and provoking the issues at hand, with the few challenging the many and vice versa.
The SBCC troupe handles the tricky script very well, with all players delivering great performances. It’s truly an ensemble show, and pointing out highlights would be unfair to the group effort. There’s a sense of shared duty and passion among the cast as they tackle this tough subject, and their collective performance is one of courage and thoughtful demonstration, shining beyond the limitations of the often-superficial dialogue. The ever-excellent Randy Tico, as sound designer, crafts some powerful soundscapes, such as a crescendo of camera clicks, amid the youthful, clubby soundtrack. Patricia L. Frank’s minimal stage design is effective, too, doubling as bleachers and cold, prison-like structures under light designer Francois-Pierre Couture’s columnar, confessional beams.
The main issues are in the script. Granted, Iizuka took on a complex subject, but she avoids critical thinking under the shield of blameless subjectivity. Much of the dialogue is of the most clichéd, common-denominator, PSA-after-school-special variety, and it doesn’t so much provoke a discussion as merely represent one. By seeming to provocatively trend-hop between every hot-topic social issue that these crazy kids of Anywheretown, U.S.A., engage in on their Twitter devices, Iizuka says effectively very little beyond what is already known and moralizes in a cautious, don’t-drink-too-much way.
It’s too bad the strong troupe’s talents are spent on a script that needs improvement, but their efforts are still definitely worth the watch. And, in a way, the script works by provoking from its viewers the nuanced points it so lacks. For that, Good Kids is worth your time and is a good fire starter for refining our discourses and actions as a society.