EXTENDED AGAIN THRU JANUARY 5 !
By Brian Scott Lipton
The challenges of female adolescence is rather familiar fodder these days in books, television and film, but they’re being explored with a remarkably fresh, honest and sometimes hilarious perspective by the young playwright Alexis Scheer in Our Dear Dead Drug Lord, now being co-presented by the WP Theatre and Second Stage at the McGinn/Cazale under Whitney White’s assured direction. Indeed, Scheer seems to have not so much invented characters or dialogue but has simply allowed us to eavesdrop on the monthly get-togethers of our four protagonists.
Mind you, these meetings don’t take place anywhere as quotidian at the school cafeteria or a local Starbucks (although the coffee chain gets a pointed mention or two); the foursome instead gather in a spectacularly decorated Miami treehouse (splendidly designed with great detail by Yu Hsuan-Chen) that belongs to Pipe (Carmen Berkeley), who is the privileged daughter of Cuban immigrants.
The meetings are held there because they have a quasi-official purpose: Pipe is the president of the “Dead Leaders Club,” a recently defunded school organization. While we learn the DLC was originally founded to study people like JFK and MLK, it has taken a rather unusual turn under her guidance. During the months in question, the club is not simply examining the life of the notorious Colombian drug kingpin Pablo Escobar (who died in 2003), a seemingly odd choice, but the quartet is actually trying to raise the spirit of “their dear departed drug lord” from the great beyond.
In some ways, Pipe is markedly different from her friends and fellow club members: the slightly immature, mercurial Zoom (a delightful Alyssa May Gold), the seemingly grounded, African-American Squeeze (a fine Malika Samuel) and worldly newcomer Kit (the charismatic Rebecca Jimenez). But each young woman is struggling to find her identity in the world, be it sexual, political, national, and/or familial. It is an especially daunting task for any young woman, and one made even more so in the fall of 2008, as America still copes with the aftermath of 9/11 and gears up for a groundbreaking Presidential election between John McCain and Barack Obama.
Moreover, Scheer smartly teases out the extremely personal reason each girl is taking part in the club’s often questionable rituals, which take place when the girls aren’t fighting about boys, religion or racism. Since much of Our Dear Dead Drug Lord – including these revelations — relies on the elements of surprise (especially its often shocking if not entirely successful final 20 minutes), it’s best not to know much else about the work.
But rest assured, especially for audiences who have been praying to hear new voices in the theater: Our Dear Drug Lord is a well-spent 90 minutes and cause for a hallelujah or two.