This show, about “the bullied and bruised gay youth of America,” only appeared once in Cleveland—last week at the One Theatre World Festival that took place at the Idea Center downtown.
But it’s headed to off-Broadway this autumn, and likely other venues beyond that, so keep an eye peeled. Written and directed by Chicagoan Mark Blane, The Rock & The Ripe dives into the torments endured by gay kids in school. And while there are rough edges, Blane’s script has the courage of its own convictions, up to and including a downbeat and emotionally impactful conclusion.
In this condensed version, staged in a large classroom, four cast members from Chicago carry the story, as opposed to the eight in the original production. The kids meet in the Principal’s anteroom, having been sent there for being disruptive in class.
Billy (Justin Lance) is the latest to arrive, and he is immediately bullied by Brendan (a properly smartass Christopher Kervick), with Calvin (Colin Funk) and Erin (Alison Mouratis), wearing a tiara) looking on. As we learn more about each of these young people, insights are gained even as the mystery of where they are going deepens.
What becomes obvious, though, is how absent the adults in the school are. This accurately echoes the isolation LGBT teens feel in schools where their torments are often ignored.
Blane captures the back-and-forth of teen talk precisely, with plenty of dark humor included. And he takes interesting chances with symbolism, such as referencing a galaxy of doorknobs suspended from the ceiling.
It all doesn’t hang together perfectly, but by the end you begin to get a visceral sense of what it is like to be left on the outside, without help or hope. And that is a powerful communication all by itself.
Blane has also produced a video, watch at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gWxbg2KpU3w
as well as a 160-page compact paperback book,which can be purchased at: http://garycameradigital.com/the-rock-the-ripe-swag-the-book.html
The rock in the title alludes to a quote by Phillip Parker, a teenager who loved Lady Gaga, adored wearing feathers, and felt the incessant bullying at school "like a rock on my chest." He committed suicide last year, at age 14.
As for "the ripe," let's hope it means that the time is ripe for change.