Review: Enthusiastic audiences enjoy local fare

‘Tumbleweeds’ — homegrown

and intense

What, a play written by high school kids? When I was in high school, half a century ago, I was much taken with the stage, and filled reams of binder paper with longhand, writing dozens of skits and plays. Looking back, I now realize that those early efforts ranged from the merely insipid to the appallingly clichéd. High school playwriting? Sigh.

Then I attended the play “Tumbleweeds,” which builds slowly to a remarkable intensity. The characters grow on you, and you listen to what they have to say. While the action takes place in Ridgecrest, the story could apply to any community.

A group of high school friends are finding their way through many issues. I personally appreciate the emphasis on what it means to be a true friend. “Tumbleweeds” took me immediately back to my own high school days—with so many of the same issues — pressure for life-altering decisions you don’t feel prepared to make, the feeling of not fitting in, fear of making a mistake, facing childhood’s end, finding the courage to strike out on your own.

One of the most remarkable things about this play is that it was written by a team — David Johnson, Madi Freese, Payton Tuthill, Alex Tellez and Isis Alexander, three of whom also perform.

“It was collaboration in a way I’ve never seen with adults,” said Justin O’Neill, co-director. “Last July, a team came to us and said they wanted to do their own project. They worked all last summer writing this. It’s been quite the project.”

O’Neill and Co-director Gio-vanni Velasco were there to guide the team and point out where some scenes needed to be cut or expanded, but overall the students did the work, including deciding who would play what part.

As the play took shape, different actors actually wrote some of the scenes their characters play. Given this free rein, I was impressed there was no bad language and all subjects were handled in good taste.

I was also impressed by the level of talent represented in this group of young adults — not just writing and editing, but also organization, acting, teamwork, and commitment to a project. A round of applause for all of you!

After the performance, you can stay for the “Talk Back” section and talk to the actors and team members. “We wanted to bridge the gap between what parents see and what the students see,” said Joey Davis.

“I just want the kids to remember that we were kids once. Thank you for reminding us,” said one adult audience member.

For more information, see the Hungry River website at hungry or www.kickstarter.

com/ tumbleweeds. Tickets are at Red Rock Books and at the door, for Feb. 6, 7 and 8 and Feb. 13, 14 and 15, all at 7 p.m. Matinee performances will be at 2 p.m. on Feb. 8 and 15. Performed at the Old Town Theater, 215 W. Ridgecrest Blvd., this production is supported by donations, and instructions on how to donate are given on the webpage.

Story First Published: 2014-02-05