‘Spelling Bee’ will make you l-o-l

Johnny Weber

GROSSMONT COLLEGE –The Theatre Arts Department premiered The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee on Thursday, March 8th at the Stagehouse Theatre as part of the department’s 2012 Spring Semseter play season.

At first I was skeptical of this play. I thought that it wouldn’t be a comedy based on the title. But as the play went on I could not help but laugh almost the whole time.

The “Spelling Bee” is a hilarious adult take on a middle school spelling bee that takes place in a gymnasium complete with a basketball hoop and wooden floors. As the play started the various actors appeared to check in and as they were done checking in, there was an announcement that they were missing some “spellers.” These spellers were part of the audience.

The “Bee” has a variety of comedy from poop jokes to highly intellectual jests that are sure to make even the most witty person laugh. The characters themselves are enough to make you laugh.

Jordan Bunshaft plays William Barfee (its pronounced BARFEY!), an almost paranoid schizophrenic scientific mother’s boy nerd,  who was true to his character the entire time and had an amazing performance. Alex Dunbar who plays Leaf Coneybear did a fantastic job channeling his inner Ed, Edd, and Eddy, to perform as a kid who isn’t quite there but has a weird brilliance to him. The comfort counselor played by Rafi Cedeño shows his character’s rough Latino exterior as well as his soft and kind heart in such a way that the audience can relate.

Olive Ostrovsky, played by Elizabeth Jimenez, has the perfect countenance for a little kid and even stands and moves around like a little kid.  There is even a guest appearance by none other than Jesus! (no joke!)

One of the highlights of the play for me, being a guy, was the song about erections. Every guy has had an experience where he has been called up to the front of a class with a raging hard-on and has been embarrassed by it. The song capitalized on this experience and turned it into one of the most comedic lyrics that I have heard. Yes, this play does have a lot of dick jokes, but in a classier way than most.

The music behind the spelling bee was fantastically composed. It has an almost Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory sound to it and expresses the inner feelings of the characters beautifully.

Even though it is mostly a comedy, there are some touching moments in the play. The frustrations of adolescence and the importance of words are emphasized. As the play says “life is chaos.” We can all think back and remember how jumbled and crazy growing up was and how rushed and complicated it seemed at the time.  Whether it is the high expectations forced upon children by parents, or parents that were never there, the play explores these concepts in a touching way.

“The Spelling Bee” is such a high quality experience for a low-budget production. The acting is wonderful and is executed outstandingly. There is high audience participation. I would recommend  this play to anyone who is old enough to be in college, even those who are not necessarily into theatre.

‘Spelling Bee’ plays this Wednesday through Sunday at the Stagehouse Theatre on campus.

Weber is managing editor of the GC Summit.  He may be reached at [email protected]