Last week, an Oregon man was struck and killed on a Colorado road, months into a cross-country walk in memory of his son. It was a tragic twist to the story of the gay teen, who died in January after hanging himself to escape years of bullying. That news was fresh in my mind as I watched "From White Plains," a play by Michael Perlman whose characters explore high school bullying and homophobia.
Set in the wake of the Academy Awards, at which a young filmmaker has won an Oscar for a movie that outs a high school bully fifteen years after the fact, "From White Plains" has some honest and stark dialog as well as light moments.
Jimmy King and Karl Gregory in "From White Plains." Photo provided by Kitchen Theatre."It was high school, I was an asshole to everyone," says Ethan Rice, the one-time bully, as he takes a difficult look at his behavior of the past. He puts out an apology as an Internet video, half-hearted at first, but as the filmmaker continues to rant, Ethan realizes more and more that his words have had consequences.
The play uses just four cast members, not counting the off-stage YouTube generation, as well as phone calls and text messages, to tell a story that resonates with current events such as the Oregon father's death and other bullying incidents in the news. The four actors are Equity members who've been working together for a few years as part of Fault Line Theatre.
Artistic director Rachel Lampert introduces a performance of "From White Plains."The bully comes to realize even his best friend is uncomfortable, and the filmmaker's boyfriend watches as he won't let go of the online arguments. "The play presents so many points of view about guilt, responsibility, and remorse," says Kitchen Theatre artistic director Rachel Lampert, who introduced the preview-night performance I saw. She and other Kitchen Theatre staff and board members traveled to see the off-Broadway production in New York City earlier this year.
Tickets are available online at kitchentheatre.org or by calling 607-272-0570, with student and senior discounts available. Check the schedule for opening reception on October 19th, cast and crew talkbacks, pre-show talks, wine tasting, matinees, and other events associated with "From White Plains," playing now through November 10th at the Kitchen Theatre.
An earlier version of this review was broadcast on WVBR and appears on wvbr.com.