IndyFringe: Love OverDose

This is part of IndyFringe 2022, Aug. 18-Sept. 4 (individual performance times vary) in downtown Indianapolis. Details and tickets at IndyFringe.org.

By John Lyle Belden

React theatre for children and teens (formerly Young Actors Theatre) has created an exceptional topical performance piece in “Love OverDose.” Developed by students with the help of adult mentors and experts, this play with movement and monologues addresses the current opioid crisis from the kids’ perspective, serving as a wake-up call to us all.

Students at Bridgeport High School, U.S.A., Riley Hembry (Hannah Schultz) and sister Alex (Sadie Sheets) are smart, successful, and popular. That means they get invited to all the good parties (“good” defined by the presence of drugs and alcohol). They might drink a bit, or have a pill or two, but it’s not like they’re addicted or anything.

As Riley’s best friend Blake (Regina Jones) says when asked if she does drugs, “No – just sometimes.” Their pal Benny (Bryan McElroy) goes along, though he would rather just chill with classmates at home with a movie. Emma (Katya Bain) knows to take it easy, remembering the embarrassment of her addict father. Jesse (Will Harris) is a freshman in accelerated classes who tutors (or does their homework) to get in with the cool kids. This gets him into the party, but he doesn’t feel like staying.

Still, life can get really intense when you’re a teen, especially when the Hembrys’ parents start to divorce. Riley has some pills. Alex grabs the pill bottle. Before they realize it, they are making life-and-death decisions.

Scenes are punctuated with individual fourth-wall speeches given literally standing on a box, movement interludes that accentuate the feelings of adolescence and projected pharmaceutical-style commercials for “Opioids!” complete with “side effects may include…” that range from feeling invincible, to death.

Aimed squarely at teens and their parents with blunt honesty – without being cheesy, naïve, melodramatic, or overwrought like an “afterschool special” – this also measures up as an excellent theatre piece with gripping drama.

Fringe-goers should see this: 7:15 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 25; 7 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 27; 8:45 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 3; 5:15 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 4. Those interested in having this presented at a school or other organization can get information at reactkids.org/projects/loveoverdose.

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