How do you remember learning civics in high school? By memorizing the 27 amendments? By writing flashcards for court cases? The Wintersville High School course “Problems of Democracy” used to be much like this: esoteric, traditional, and boring.
But what if your teacher had you stage a series of drug deals for a project — with Good ‘N Plenty restaurants playing the part of the contraband — all in the name of learning about the U.S. criminal justice system?
No Refund Theatre’s rendition of Jeffrey Hatcher’s comedy “Good ‘N’ Plenty” tells the story of Richard Miller, the cool new social studies professor at Wintersville High School who assigns this task to his students. Set in 1976, the show features all the memorable characters of academia: the jock, the bad boy, the valedictorian, the temptress, the airheads and the potheads.
And as a correction to the 26-year-old class curriculum that he was once taught as a Wintersville senior years before, Professor Miller proposes a new course to teach his students about democracy. But this new “curriculum” isn’t a curriculum at all. It’s a game.
Professor Miller concocts a crime, assigns roles to students, and challenges them find the perpetrator and put him on trial. The objective of the game is to provide a real life application of democracy to students. However, the game quickly devolves into chaos as the limits of the American legal system become realities.
As “Bennie and the Jets” lingers in the background and the curtains prepare to set, Professor Miller utters the words, “Define democracy and you’ve described a crime.”
Debut director Mia Nicolai’s “Good ‘N’ Plenty” will have you laughing and questioning. It mixes wit, cheekiness and truth, and is laden with pop culture references, like the foreign exchange student from Bulgaria who relates to America exclusively through classic rock lyrics. The production is a roller-coaster statement on public education, the American legal system, and democracy as a whole.
NRT will put on “Good ‘N’ Plenty” at 8 p.m. November 2-4 in 111 Forum. Admission is free, and a full cast list and event updates can be found on the play’s Facebook page.