Fine Performances with Some Predictable "TLC"
KC Fringe Festival
At "Helping Hands", a halfway house for teens, counselor John (Jason Coats) conducts his first group session with kids that have been abused, neglected and unloved. From John's hesitation at the beginning, we immediately know that he is unsure of how his day will go. Will he be able to successfully unite these teens, or will he fail miserably and be fired at the end of the day?
Each of the kids has their chance to speak about their experiences - yes, the script is unfortunately that predictable. John probes them with questions and the stories roll in, monologue-style. Yancy (Lindsey Reams), a Batman fan, has a social disorder that isolates her from the rest of the teens. Alex (Joseph Bricker) is a thief with a lot of pent-up rage. Hannah (Jennie Betzelberger) speaks of being molested by an older man. We hear from the other teens about drug use, sexuality, murder, and suicide. Much sadness and anger is expressed by most of them. (Of course.) A few project indifference to their situation. (Typical teens.) Others are so detached from their reality that they don't know how to express themselves effectively. For the most part, the monologues were performed well, with moving, dramatic builds and appropriate beats. The script strengthened with interactions between the kids – conflicts, agreements, a skit about being gay, and a kiss – all which!
created waves of emotion within this audience member.
PerformOUT KC is an amateur group of actors ages 14-20, and not having seen their work before, I was not sure what kind of performance level to expect. Coats was the only adult in the show and did a fine job in expressing the frustration of a difficult first day at work. Performances by Reams, Bricker, Betzelberger, Alexandra Tiller, Spencer Wilson, and Stephanie Laaker prove that the future of Kansas City theatre will be bright. Standout Reams is a pleasure to watch on stage; she bursts with energy and humor without overstepping. Another favorite was Wilson, who is a compelling actor that has a gift for connecting. Other actors were satisfactory but not stellar - perhaps a few more experiences on the stage will do them good. There was some vocal nervousness, a few moments of over-acting, and problems with projection, but I was impressed with these young people overall.
I don't want to spoil anything for you, but since these characters are based on real people, you may be able to guess what is revealed at the end. The final moments of the play provide a satisfying conclusion that makes you think hours after the show is over.
The Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre has a small space, but is decent for plays with simple sets. With Kansas City's steamy summer heat, it was somewhat warm in the theatre, but there were plenty of fans placed on the seats for the audience.
There are two performances left of "TLC". Support these young actors and take your own teen to the show. More information on tickets can be found at www.kcfringe.org.