There's a reason so many teenagers turn to punk music - it speaks to adolescence and to a very pointed, woke teenager, one who reveres antiestablishment politics or noncommercial art. And there's something pure in that, a resistance mentality that's too often lost on a ton of teens who buy in, wholesale, to a pop-culture landscape that values uncited pastiche, thoughtlessly co-opts standardized notions of beauty, and refuses to think for itself.
At its heart, this is what the world premiere of Azuka Theatre's Local Girls mines, and effectively. In enlisting Orbiter 3 and Ars Nova Play Group standout Emma Goidel, they've got a charmer on their hands with the playwright's pseudo-musical drama. It's a little snot-nosed and a little philosophical, like any good punk band ought to be.
Mostly it's the story of Diskit (Anna Zaida Szapiro) and Riley (Mary Tuomanen), who absolutely carry the dynamism of the production. The two girls find their lives intersecting when Riley's bandmate, true to tradition, goes missing. That's when Diskit shows up, a surprise screamer, which Riley's band currently is desperately seeking, to their chagrin.
Thigh Trap, from Tucker, Ga. (semiautobiographical; Goidel grew up in Georgia, but got an education at Barnard and Columbia), is the band in question. Tabitha Allen (Shanice) and Jahzeer Terrell (Roe) fill out the temporarily three-piece while Riley is subjected to Diskit's science tutoring until Riley realizes that Diskit can scream. Really loudly and deeply.
It takes Riley pushing Diskit to flesh out her outrage for some humor to emerge. "No one my age cares about anything I'm interested in," "climate change," and "when I have to feed the cats" are primary rage sources, all while she's wearing Keens. Diskit can't entertain a long list of dietary restrictions, one's gluten, and; Riley finds her gluten-free beer at Kroger's. Sexual tension is in the air but never explicitly addressed.
This play works on a number of levels. The first is that everyone in the cast is musical - actors actually hold instruments and play them live. It's worth mentioning that Goidel led her band, the Bandits, in a several-song finale in the remarkable Drake Hotel space after a double-applause finale with Tuomanen on drums, plus Emily Schuman and Izzy Sazak. Goidel said her she and Schuman are working the "theater band circuit."
Goidel playfully puts the "Zombie Fuel Energy Drink Wreak Ruckus Battle of the Bands" at the play's center and entertains the truly teenage mentality that, as soon as one graduates and embarks on adulthood, a band is the ideal way to secure a ticket to freedom and fame. In fact, Sam Henderson, who portrays Diskit's father, shines as a sage, music industry-wizened auxiliary character who puts success in perspective, arguing that the Beatles had three years of gigging in Germany under their belts before they found notoriety (a.k.a. George Martin).