Theater review by Raven Snook
It’s fall 2008, and the world is on the cusp of change. So are Miami private-school students Pipe (Carmen Berkeley), Kit (Rebecca Jimenez), Squeeze (Malika Samuel) and Zoom (Alyssa May Gold). Unnervingly worldly yet hilariously naïve, these members of the Dead Leaders Club snort cocaine, argue about politics and worship Pablo Escobar the way their less eccentric peers might revere Justin Timberlake. As holiday lights twinkle around a grinning poster of the deceased drug czar, they pull out a Ouija board to try to conjure their hero, and debate who will kill the stray cat they have kidnapped as a sacrifice. Headstrong Kit, the gang’s brand-new addition from New Jersey, gleefully obliges.
Alexis Scheer’s savage one-act Our Dear Dead Drug Lord, coproduced by WP Theater and Second Stage, is part of a wave of plays by young women that portray female adolescence as an almost feral state (see also Horse Girls, Dance Nation, Usual Girls). Its central characters don’t see Escobar as a villain because they covet his abandon and his power—qualities they haven’t been encouraged to cultivate in a world that demands that they be good and obedient girls, even in the face of trauma.
Under Whitney White’s energetic direction, Samuel and the adorkable Gold mostly serve as comic relief to Berkeley and Jimenez’s ferocious alpha females. Their excellent acting sells some of Scheer’s wonkier bits—especially the talk about 9/11 and Obama’s election, which don’t convince as teenspeak. But just when you think you know where the play is heading, there’s a disorienting coup de théâtre that leaves you shaken. Our Dear Dead Drug Lord isn’t for the faint of heart, but neither is coming of age.
WP Theater (Off Broadway). By Alexis Scheer. Directed by Whitney White. With ensemble cast. Running time: 1hr 30mins. No intermission.