‘Heathers’ and heathens: a musical comedy

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“Heathers,” presented by New Line Theatre, opened on the newly renovated Marcelle Theater stage two weeks ago Friday to a sold out house. Known for the “exploration of provocative, socially and politically relevant works of musical theatre,” New Line offers its rendition of “Heathers” as if it were a tour de force. Try though they may, the cast was unable to fully imbue life into what turns out to be shoddy writing. To begin the first act, the audience meets Veronica Sawyer (Anna Skidis), the “typical” high school student narrating to the audience the typical cast of characters — jocks, stoners, nerds, etc. This is until everyone kneels at the feat of the goddesses of the popular kids, the Heathers. Mean, cruel and bossy, they embody the literary device of what I’ll call the “high school antagonistic trope.” Heather, Heather and Heather (Sicily Mathenia, Cameisha Cotton and Larissa White, respectively) allow Veronica Sawyer to join them and become popular, so as to exploit her unnatural skill of forgery.

The Heathers aren’t the only ones who take notice of the remarkable skills of Veronica. J.D. (Evan Fornachon) — a James Dean, Dylan Klebold bag of mixed up teenage angst gone wrong — seduces Veronica by singing the first love ballad of the show to the “7-Eleven Slurpee.” This was the first hint that writers Laurence O’Keefe and Kevin Murphy will require the audience to suspend their disbelief if they were going to follow the plot line in an enjoyable fashion. They strive to encapsulate the dichotomy of teenage life, mixing serious themes and humor. This can be found in the song “Blue”, a doo-whop style tune that has the jocks Ram Sweeney and Kurt Kelly (Omega Jones and Clayton Humburg) justifying their potential date rape with the fact that they have blue-balls. It is important to note here that directors Scott Miller and Mike Dowdy moved most of the show into the high camp realm, uplifting the humorous and downplaying the dramatic portions. A decision made with intellect due to the structure of the script.

On the technical side of things, the live band handled difficult, paired down music with precision, working with the singers instead of against them. Set designer Rob Lippert combines functionality, beauty and jarring color choices with the difficult action of the show. With aesthetics in mind, costume designer Sarah Porter gives each character a signature look without battling the tropes laid out by the authors.

The actors and artistic staff, ultimately, were left with pieces and caricatures to portray. It is very reminiscent of high-camp sketch comedy instead of a fully developed modern musical. This is no fault to the troupe at New Line, for it is impossible to run a mile in only twenty feet. One exception to this lukewarm, thematic style of acting was Victoria Valentine, who dives deep into characterization for her role as the Stoner Chick. With catchy tunes, vibrant visuals and heathenistic humor, Heathers will delight anyone wanting to escape from the dullness of life and float into the realm of the surreal.