By Allie Kantack
Sometimes the hardest things to talk about are the things we need to hear. And theatre provides an avenue for these things to be heard. A stunning performance by the University of Missouri triggered a difficult, but necessary conversation. Their production of “Good Kids” prompted the audience to answer the questions that the characters could not. Experiencing this play was not easy, yet piecing together its meaning proved even harder.
Loosely based on the Steubenville rape case, “Good Kids” depicts a group of high school friends torn apart by a sexual assault. While the characters argue about what actually happened, the play ultimately asserts that the incident was, in fact, a rape. The performance left the audience wondering who is to blame and what happens next.
Structurally, “Good Kids” follows the template of a memory play as it alternates between flashbacks and narration. The narrator controlled the scenes by pausing and rewinding the actors, which made the memories chronologically confusing. These fragmented scenes forced the audience to constantly focus in endeavor to comprehend the story.
Characters were also difficult to understand. In the end, each high schooler became both a victim and a culprit of the play’s inciting incident. Actors demonstrated urgency, but lacked sincerity in their characters’ situations; for example, the three boys who committed the rape did not appear to feel the true weight of the consequences of their actions. For a play that aims to represent humanity, this performance needed more believable and more relatable portrayals of character.
The spectacle furthered the overarching theme of connecting pieces together. Separated walls functioned as both projection and shadow screens, which also served the play’s theme of cyberspace. Individual images, such as intertwined wires or dandelion seeds, appeared sporadically throughout the performance and later assembled into a final montage. Projections also appeared broken between the gaps in the walls, which further visualized the theme of pieces.
Director Carrie Winship wrote that “this play does not propose solutions” even though audience wanted it to. Instead, it sought to reflect our society and its ever-present sexual violence by leaving the audience with unanswered questions and a sense of guilt. Piecing together this puzzle took time and effort, and its final image exposes a harsh truth about humankind.
Playwright: Naomi Iizuka
Director: Carrie Winship
Cast: Bridget Grojean, Asher Alt, Shelby Kay Gronhoff, Serena Stoddard, Sara Nolan, Phajja Redwood, Cassandra Ferrick, Sierra Ashton, Matthew McCombs, Andre Steward, Cody Grasher, and Charlie Durham.
Design Team and Crew: Chris Oliver, David Schneider, Cat Gleason, Melissa Jackson Burns, Rachel Jognson, Xiomara Cornejo, Loren Howard, Kate Busselle, Alison Kertz, Brad M. Carlson, Rebecca Holley, Loren Howard, Amy Taylor, Emanuel Llorente, and Barbara Randazzo.