The name Good n’ Plenty would conjure up childhood pleasures to most of our grandparents. As children, trips to the candy store were a big deal, and even when grandma and grandpa were kids Good n’ Plenty licorice was a household name. Cornell Theatre Association’s play of the same name, however, may give the old folks somewhat of a shock as its themes are far from the simplistically gleeful connotations the name may carry.
The play, by Jeffrey Hatcher, (which uses the brand candy a name for a fake drug) triggers memories of the “cool older guys” of my young teenage years conversing over Strawberries, Scooby Snacks, and Disco Biscuits. At the time, little did I know they were referring to Ecstasy, but the sinister truth behind their words was soon hammered home by numerous government safety campaigns. Such efforts worked for me, but with Good n’ Plenty we are shown the message-sending power of the arts to be just as effective. Indeed, Director Benjamin Shiffrin’s ’03 third Schwartz Black Box Theatre show is not one primarily about drugs. Likewise, it certainly isn’t all doom and gloom. Good n’ Plenty is an immensely innovative comedy that examines democracy in America and attempts at social and constitutional change. For such a young director working in a limited space, Shiffrin does a fine job with Hatcher’s play. Considering that all actors (except for the lead) play multiple characters, CTA’s Good n’ Plenty is a well-orchestrated start to the Spring 2003 leg of the theatrical season.
The play concerns Richard Miller (Daryll Heysham), a high school history teacher returning to work at his alma mater. Upon his return many of the nightmare teachers he once had as a student become his colleagues. In particular, he is assigned to teach an accompanying section of Glenda Dunlope’s (Jan Rogge) “Problems of Democracy” class. Dunlope and Miller become entangled in a conflict over preferred methods of a practical examination of the Bill of Rights. Miller wins out (notably through a corrupt voting system) and class members are assigned different roles to play, including Narcs, Pushers, Buyers, Lawyers, and Prosecutors in a mock real world. The game starts out smoothly and incorporates the humor of the play, but eventually the mock and real worlds merge and the innocent participants become submerged in the horrific consequences of their manipulation of authority, the system, and involvement in drugs.
Heysham, who appears courtesy of Actors’ Equity Association, breaks down the imaginary fourth wall of the stage by speaking with the audience in various scenes taking place within his memory. This interaction appears throughout, sharing the plentiful humor of his colleagues, while later, his proximity to the audience places the tragic realization of his actions in the onlookers lap. Along with Rogge’s and John Payne’s characters, Heysham is a part of a faculty to which we all can relate: Miller, the youthful out-of-place favorite, a near — death history teacher, a frolicking poet (both Payne), and a flamboyant Spanish teacher (Rogge) to name just a few. Rogge and Payne both also appear courtesy of the AEA. Payne’s finest moments, however, are in his main role as Principal Ed Renzelli, including a hilarious switch into a satanic version of himself that translates the true meaning of his euphemistic semantics. Rogge starts off slow (as history teacher Glenda Dunlope) but by play’s end she reaffirms herself as, in my mind, one of t>Archived article by Tom Britton