Running through January 30 at Theatre Row Studios, where it has already been extended twice, the genesis of Inappropriate is fascinating. Michael DeSisto (of the DeSisto School) found contemporary theater to be lacking in "true-to-life" drama. He conceived Inappropriate as a piece based upon the gift-box journals of his students, many of whom came from troubled homes, had experiences with drugs and rehab, or brushes with the law. The journals were then compiled by noted theater director Lonnie McNeil. McNeil and DeSisto brought the play to New York City, first as a workshop, then to the nationally-recognized company Theatreworks for its Off-Broadway premiere in March of 1999. All the more poignant, McNeil was unable to share in the success of his kids, having passed away from AIDS-related complications shortly after the initial run.
In its original incarnation, Inappropriate featured characters who were anonymous, dressed in black uniforms, and who performed for two acts; in the second act, the cast would interact with the audience and answer questions. In the current version, eight vibrant individuals support and deliver powerful tales of teenage anguish and victory in a single act, presenting themselves as unique characters with distinct conflicts. Many audience members remain in the lobby to talk with the cast about the overwhelming stories they have heard, all on teen themes with much relevance to youth, such as drug abuse, rape, domestic violence, and suicide.
Because such traumatic dilemmas may not plague every teen, other conflicts, such as questioning one's self-worth under the microscope of unrealistically high parental expectations, finding one's sexual identity, and hiding one's insecurities under conformist visages, are explored. The most endearing moments are when characters find happiness and solace in their dreams of tolerance, or by finding their first love.
Again, the ultimate hook is that each performer brings so much of their own life to their character -- hence, achieving the raw realism long sought by DeSisto and McNeil. Audiences' reactions vary from finding some material shocking to finding some material tearfully pertinent. The cast performs every day while attending school; they are known as a closely-knit "tribe". (The DeSisto student body only consists of about 100 students.)
As new students come to the DeSisto school with fresh stories of their own, the plan is for Inappropriate to be revised and revived accordingly.
Musical accompaniment is by the extraordinary band, House of Red, which provides pulsating rhythms and powerful instrumentals. Rock, rap, and salsa are but a few of the styles that are showcased in the score. In addition, the choreography compliments the score superbly. As a caution before buying tickets, please note that Inappropriate may be inappropriate for children under 12.