A trio of teen girls go on a shopping mall spree with a stolen credit card.
In the author's note on the program of his new play at Broom Street Theater, Rob Matsushita writes, "...for me, it always comes down to characters and dialogue." The play, abhorrently titled Hitler Was Right, is top heavy with both. At Sunday's performance, the actors -- playing a trio of teen girls on a shopping mall spree with a stolen credit card -- delivered Matsushita's razor-edged dialogue with consistent pacing, but seemed tired by the end of the 55-minute performance.
You can't blame them. The play's single act is laced with hate speech, manipulation and evil. In one particularly uncomfortable scene, the group's leader, Monica, urges her friend Kirstey to stop talking so much about her hatred of minority groups, and instead do something about them. Monica exerts increasing control over the other girls as the play unfolds, wielding superciliousness and the credit card as the tools of her trade.
Faced with the task of revisiting the self-loathing of adolescent womanhood, the cast does an admirable job. Their conversations made the audience laugh out loud -- or groan audibly. Celia Lohr's turn as Tiffany, an innocent misguided by her church's abstinence group into a convoluted understanding of sex, abortion, and sin, is particularly endearing.
Broom Street veteran Kate Boomsma deftly brings baseless indignation to Kirstey, a character who spouts racism and homophobia throughout the production. She portrays the misdirected rage of a spoiled and ignorant teen girl believably.
Trisha Picard, in the role of the terrible trio's puppet master, is competent in capturing the shaky swagger of a teenage villainess. In a handful of scenes, Picard's Monica is truly despicable -- a significant accomplishment on a stage as sparse and intimate as Broom Street's.
Ultimately, the script raises questions about friendship, prejudice, and adolescence that it doesn't answer. It's a shame those questions don't find resolution in the play, which feels more like a sketch than a fully realized work. Matsushita affably skirts commitment to his own themes in his author's note, referring to an allegorical nod to the GOP, the religious right, and ignorant non-voters as "a line of b.s." that he'd rather discuss in person.
Each performance is followed by a "special surprise" -- screenings of Matsushita's film work have followed some early performances -- but you might be better served by grabbing a beer with friends to wash away the show's hateful language and puzzle over its characters' motivations.
The play is ambitious and adroitly staged. Moments of the dialogue are piercing -- whether they're harsh invective or heartbreaking insight into the agonizing years between 12 and 20. If the characters' words steered them to redemption, or even self-awareness, which lingers on the periphery but never finds the stage, it would be a play worth seeing again.