Regional Reviews: Phoenix
Hatcher sets his play in a fictional Oklahoma high school in 1976. Richard Miller has returned to his old school determined to find a way to get his students to learn about democracy, but not just by reading about it. He clashes with fellow teacher Glenda Dunlope who is set in her ways and still treats him like a former student. She insists he has a lesson plan, but he hasn't created one so he comes with the idea for an experiment instead. By having his students play a game in which they play drug dealers, buyers, cops, narcs and lawyers, using Good & Plenty candy instead of drugs that they buy with Monopoly money, Miller figures it would be the perfect way to teach the kids about democracy and the criminal justice system. Drugs in a high school? What could possibly go wrong?
Hatcher's script is well written with some very funny bits and even funnier characters. It's a humorous political satire that also comments on how things that were relevant in the 1970sgas prices, tension in the Middle east, the war on drugs, the idea of having to be the "winner"were relevant when he wrote the play in 2007. Strangely enough, they are also things we still focus on today.
Director Ron May keeps the frenzy at a fever pitch with an incredibly gifted cast of students, with all but one of the talented group playing multiple parts with skill and a sometimes split second change from one character to the next with expert precision.
As Miller, Ryan Marcham is energetic and engaging. He keeps an even keel throughout, even while the craziness of the experiment backfires around him. Zach Fagan and Dolores Mendoza play several teachers and faculty members. Fagan is a hoot as the principal and a couple of very different teachers while Mendoza is exceptional as Miller's arch nemesis Dunlope and the Spanish teacher who doesn't quite know the language. Her take on Dunlope has a rich sweetness beneath the character's bitter exterior.
The rest of the cast play all of the students in Miller's class. Hatcher's script features characters for each actor to play that are almost complete opposites of each other and the MCC cast has a lot of fun in playing these very different students. Samantha Hanna is exceptional as Cindy Hlivko, the manipulating student who will do anything to nudge out her rival for valedictorian, as well as an exchange student from Bulgarian who learned English from pop songs and only speaks in song lyrics. Tom J. McCoy plays both the class jock and class nerd with adept dexterity while Brittney Watson's take on the class sexpot is as excellent as her portrayal of the needy class clown. Anthony Muldrow plays the school's two black students, one of whom is in a tie with Cindy for valedictorian and who plays a drug dealer in the class game, and the other black student who is an actual drug dealer. Steven May is a hoot as a pair of twin brothers.
Under May's expert guidance the cast delivers portrayals that aren't just pitch perfect representations of these high school archetypes but are also utterly hilarious. There isn't a weak link in this gifted cast.
The set design by Dillon Blaise Wright and Gina Hoyt evokes a fun riff on a high school gymnasium while Cheyenne Phillips and Elana Shearer's costumes and the hair and make-up designs of Laurence Lilagan deliver the best and worst of the '70s styles. The costume and prop designs by Harrison Hayes also allow each actor to use just one simple item, such as a pair of cat eye glasses, a scarf, or a hat, and their keen acting abilities to transform from one student/teacher to the next with ease.
Good 'N' Plenty is a sharp political satire. MCC's production lets us laugh at the past and examine our system of government with a sensational cast and expert direction that provide a very humorous look back at the 1970s and a fun, zany twist on the madness of high school.
The Mesa Community College production of Good 'N' Plenty runs through December 10th, 2016, with performances at the MCC Southern & Dobson Campus at 1833 W. Southern Avenue in Mesa. Information for upcoming productions can be found at www.mesacc.edu/departments/communication-theatre-film-arts/theatre-film-arts.
Directed by Ron May