What’s Your Damage?
Oh how teenagers can be so cruel. And being popular in high school can be quite difficult. But can being both become a death sentence? According to Out Of the Box Theatre Company’s presentation of Heathers: The Musical, the answer is… like, yes.
For those of us who grew up in the 90’s, Heathers was an iconic movie. Unlike the light hearted, almost poppy teenage angst films of John Hughes, Heathers was a dark, cynical look at all that is wrong with high school. Complete with dysfunctional teenage love, hierarchical positions on the popularity ladder, murderous plots to gain power, and an explosive, oddly heroic, sacrificial ending, it was quite the YA of Shakespeare.
A movie like Heathers could not be made now. In 2015, society is overly sensitive to many of its themes. But it could be made into a musical theater production. So that is what creators Laurence O’Keefe and Kevin Murphy did, and did splendidly.
Awkwardness meandered on stage, 90’s style, making the audience giggle uncomfortably. The pretty people weren’t showcased first. No, the awkward majority of high school population paraded forth, with character names listed in the brochure as “Stoner Chick,” “Bitter Geek,” “Young Republican,” and “Goth Girl.” It was heartfelt as they sung about how life could be beautiful… Until “The Heathers” burst out on stage, looking perfect and electric, and completely took over the auditorium.
The characters were well cast, and the performances were executed flawlessly. Supported by a live four-piece band, the songs were catchy and hilarious, if not a bit shocking. When the main character, Veronica, thinks her life in the popular crowd is over, she brazenly sneaks into the new guy in town’s room while singing “Dead Girl Walking,” which immediately transitions into a racy sex scene.
There were many racy themes, scenes, and songsthroughout the productions. This show is not for the easily offended. The cast really played into the uncomfortableness of the stories, seemingly unabashed for its hardheartedness. The theatre company reprised many songs throughout the production, using the same song in a different context, thus giving them completely different meaning. This demonstrated how meaning is an individual interpretation of an experience – seen, heard, and felt differently by each individual. Like, totally deep.
Out of the Box Theatre Company continues to bring unique, quality productions to Santa Barbara. I commend them for bravely taking on controversial topics. The uneasiness was a welcome reminder that life isn’t always perfect, we all have a little damage – and it probably stemmed from high school.
(Bonus – they sell all things “Heathers” at the concession stand during intermission – which included jello shots! Real jello shots.)