A simple stage setup in Upper Tarble did not stop the cast and crew of “Gay Heathers” from putting on a stellar and outstanding show. Complete with passionate performances, colorful costumes, and representation of lesbians being extremely toxic, “Gay Heathers” was incredibly riveting.
While this reviewer does not know anything about musicals or plays or “Heathers,” they were certainly impressed by the work of this talented group of students. “Gay Heathers” is a twist on the original movie and musical. “Heathers” is a dark comedy about bullying, the desire to fit in, violence and retaliation, and teen suicide. The producers of this production took this classic and queered it, literally. By gender-swapping the main character, JD (Whitney Grinnage-Cassidy ’24), the show now centers on lesbians instead of the old and tired heterosexual couple.
Particularly impressive was the cast’s ability to lean into the dark comedy, managing to keep the audience laughing while also navigating difficult themes that are not for the faint of heart.
According to director Benelli Amosah ’24, “the creation of this performance came with many pitfalls and obstacles that even required me to step in and play a role, but every time I heard from an audience member that they felt a wide range of emotions while watching it, I knew that I accomplished my goal as a director.”
However, you would not be able to tell that these obstacles were present at all, and from what this reviewer can tell, the show was incredibly put-together; certainly, Amosah accomplished her goal as a director.
Veronica Sawyer (Mrinali Taskar ’22) pulls the audience in with an opening dialogue talking to her diary, introducing the school bullies Ram (Martín Villagra-Riquelme ’25) and Kurt (Mason Hartley ’24) as well as painting a horrific picture of the setting: Westerberg High School. At the end of this opening scene, we meet the Heathers. Led by Heather Chandler (Samantha Ortiz-Clark ’22), the trio of Heathers delivers a stunningly quippy performance that often anchors the comedic relief. Heather McNamara (Olivia Medeiros-Sakimoto ’25) in particular seemed to provide brilliant one-liners that broke the tension and made the audience burst out laughing.
Not soon enough, we are introduced to JD, the new girl in town who, in a brilliantly hilarious fight scene, takes both Ram and Kurt in just a couple swings. In this role, Grinnage-Cassidy delivered a truly show-stopping performance. Since this reviewer is a lesbian, it felt incredibly powerful to see a lesbian on stage that’s just a little bit off her rocker. And Grinnage-Cassidy delivered just this, an entirely convincing performance of a lesbian driven too far over the edge by deep-seeded trauma and intense love for a girl she just met. Taskar also delivered by performing what we all know too well: following a girl to incredible lengths after losing her virginity to her in mildly conspicuous circumstances.
According to Amosah, the deep character work started before they even had a finalized script.
“We didn’t have scripts for the first few weeks and were simply doing character work in order for every actor to get a feel of who they would later become on stage,” Amosah said.
This is clearly evident from the way that the actors truly disappeared into their roles, namely Grinnage-Cassidy, as I truly did believe throughout the course of the play that if I wronged her or her lady lover, she would straight up kill me.
I would be remiss to not mention the brilliant performances of the bullies. Ram and Kurt’s actors transported us directly into a conversation between two homoerotic lacrosse bros.
The rest of the ensemble delivered incredible performances, particularly the actors who played the parents. In one scene, after JD and Veronica killed the bullies and then convinced everyone they had actually killed themselves over being closeted homosexuals, the fathers (Adelyn Klingbell ’24 & Michael Nutt ’23) gave us a brilliant song about supporting their dead gay sons, in which they also revealed their own homosexual relationship with each other. This scene really encapsulated the way that this show brilliantly incorporated queer themes with the dark comedy of the original “Heathers.”
The costumes were particularly compelling as they added dimension to the characters. The Heathers’ costumes added delightful color and also felt incredibly fitting for their characters. One of the most hilarious bits was when the ensemble would dress as ghosts or angels and had on white choir robes and white 3D glasses. As they wore this and talked in sync, it nailed home the comedic effect but also the eeriness of the haunting undertones of the show.
Clearly, this reviewer is simply at a loss for words, besides brilliant, to describe this show.