Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Francisco

A Provocative Play About Bullying in From White Plains
New Conservatory Theatre Center

Also see Richard's reviews of Stupid Fucking BirdTartuffe


Nick Trengove and Sal Mattos
New Conservatory Theatre Center is currently presenting a challenging play about bullying in high schools. Michael Perlman's 2012 drama From White Plains was created in collaboration with its original New York cast about high-school bullying and its significances from the thought-provoking standpoint of both the victim and the bully years later. The playwright has written a very keen play about very smart people.

From White Plains centers on Dennis (Sal Mattos), who has won an Oscar for his film screenplay White Plains. The movie is about a gay teenager who takes his life after being persistently tormented by his high school classmates. In his academy award acceptance speech, Dennis dedicates the award to his late friend Mitchell, whose story the film is based on. He also names in his television speech a bully whose actions Dennis believes led to his friend's suicide.

The accused bully, Ethan (Nick Trengove), now 30 years old, is watching at home at the time with his friend John (Fernando Navales). The guy is dumbfounded and he doesn't even remember the events that led to the suicide. The phone starts ringing, as people chastise him for causing the young boy's suicide. Even his girlfriend dumps him. Finally, Ethan admits to his John that his behavior back in high school was pretty bad. He was something of "an asshole" in school.

Ethan posts a remorseful YouTube video the morning after the awards show saying he is really sorry about the bullying. Dennis just cannot forgive Ethan for what he has done. Even his boyfriend Gregory (Ed Moreno) moderately tries to tell Dennis to get over it and enjoy winning an Academy Award for his screenplay, but it is no use. Dennis wants to make Ethan the poster boy for bullying worldwide.

Michael Perlman presents a stimulating storyline that balances both arguments as to the wisdom of continuing the retaliation toward Ethan by Dennis after fifteen years have passed by. The script seems overwritten in some scenes. The dialogue has generally halting, overlapping, and incomplete sentences that remind me of a David Mamet play.

Director Sara Staley never lets Sal Mattos, Ed Moreno, Fernando Navales, and Nick Trengove slip into stereotypes. She keeps the emotions always in an essential level-headedness. Each gives a good, nuanced performance. Christian V. Mejia has devised a simple living room set used by both couples on the small stage. He has also devised an effective lighting design to show the various emotions of the characters.

From White Plains runs through April 26th, 2015, at the Decker Theatre, New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness, San Francisco. Tickets can be obtained at www.nctcsf.org or be calling 415-861-8972. New Conservatory Theatre Center will take this drama to Modesto on May 1 to play at the Gallo Center for the Arts. Tickets will be $20 for adults and $15 for students and are available a www.galloarts.org. Coming up next at NCTC is Jeffrey Hatcher's Compleat Female Stage Beauty running from May 15 through June 14th.


Photo: Lois Tema


Cheers - and be sure to Check the lineup of great shows this season in the San Francisco area

- Richard Connema


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