Photo by Donna Bise. Childrenís Theatre of Charlotte has always been conscientious about presenting age appropriate plays to segments of its audience.  One of the most difficult groups to find balanced, realistic plays for is teenagers.  So itís gratifying so see a serious drama for teens handled in a straightforward manner.  ďDeadly WeaponsĒ by Laurie Brooks is also part mystery, part thriller.  Whatís interesting about this drama is the way the slowly revealed layers create a believably tragic scenario. 

Three teens are hanging out, but bored.  Serena (Emily Moore), new to town, is eager to please her new friends Jessie (Abbey Spoon ) and Moss (Daniel Szmczyk).  The dialogue is by turns sarcastic, taunting, immature, and funny like kids would talk.  Jessie, the obvious leader of this small group, wants some action and demands the other two think of something to do.  Serena is timid and flustered much of the time, trying to figure out what is expected of her and what she can do about it.  Moss, younger brother to a tough, popular, older brother, tries desperately to impress both girls, finally taking out his brotherís knife.  Thatís the first deadly weapon, but the title is plural.  Whatís the other?  Words.  

The decision is made to go next door to old Mr. Leisnerís house to search for clues about his missing son, Corey, who disappeared one day and hasnít been seen since.  The teens enter his house, and problems escalate from there when Mr. Leisner comes home before they can ďescape.Ē  Choices are made by all of them along the way that affect the outcome.  The audience finds out disturbing information about each teen as more is revealed; as things go terribly wrong.  For all their tough posturing, these young people have been hurt by neglect/abuse from the adults in their lives. Without the resources to make good decisions, they flounder, and make bad ones.  Yet, even though their intentions are very different from what happens, they are responsible for their actions. 

Director Matt Cosper does an admirable job working with his young cast.  Abbey Spoon is excellent as the demanding, aggressive Jessie.  Both Emily Moore and Daniel Szmczyk are good in their parts and show bright promise.  Sidney Horton is affecting as old Mr. Leisner in a seasoned performance. 

The technical staff and crew are outstanding at Childrenís Theatre so that the production design, lighting, sound, art, costumes, etc., lend the right tense, claustrophobic atmospherics to the setting. 

What really added to the experience of the play was the discussion with the audience afterward led by Mr. Horton.  When a play introduces topics such as physical abuse, alcoholism, crimes like breaking into homes, and stabbing, discussion is badly needed to help the audience deal with their feelings about what they have just seen.  This is not only responsible, but it makes it a learning experience.  The actors read statements about their characters for the audience to agree or disagree with and comment on from their seats.  A general discussion followed.  Itís obvious everyone was paying attention, and there were many insightful remarks, especially by teens in the audience. 

Childrenís Theatre of Charlotte should be commended for dealing sensitively but realistically with important, tough subjects on a level teenagers can understand and appreciate. 

By Laurie Brooks 

Performed March 28 - April 6, 2008.

Photos by Donna Bise.

Ann Marie Oliva
Ann Marie Oliva's plays have had over 80 productions across the US. She is founder of the playwrights in residence at Theatre Charlotte in North Carolina. Ann Marie is producer/editor of ARTS ŗ la Mode, a website devoted to the arts that includes film and local theatre reviews.

~ Cast ~
Serena: Emily Moore
Jessie: Abbey Spoon
Moss: Daniel Szmczyk
Mr. Leisner: Sidney Horton

Director: Matt Cosper
Scenic Designer: Micah Morrison
Costume Designer: Jeffrey Hamby
Lighting Designer: Jonathan L. Dillard
Properties Designer: Peter Smeal
Sound Designer: Van Coble, Jr.
Sound Board Operator: Paul Setzer
Production Manager: Joseph M. Novak
Technical Director: Jeff Weeks
Literary Manager: Lucy Hazlehurst
Costume Shop Manager: Amy Akerblom Holroyd
Stage Manager: Brenda Arko
Assistant Stage Manager: Arielle Gross
Scenic Artist: Tim Parati
Master Carpenter: Andrew Gibbon
Master Electrician: Barbara Berry
House Carpenter/Crew Chief: Jeremy Holroyd
Light board Operator: Patrick Kirby
Costume First hand: Dorothy Barnes
Wardrobe Supervisor: Samantha Burroughs
Deck Crew: Emily Bebber


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