You Will Have 25 Minutes To Complete This Essay is one of two teen-created shows in this year’s FringeNext category. Written and directed by Alexx Rouse, it is a happy breeze of a piece that plays against teen stereotypes by speaking directly to them and then surprising you again with odd little twists.
The set-up is clever: nine students take the written portion of the Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT). They do their best to rationalize their worldview, as only a teen can, persuasive-essay style. The character names that I received after the show pretty much matched my notes: Jock, Slut, Nerd, Pregnant Girl, Weird Kid, Underachiever, Cyber Nerd, Drama Queen and Sally. Ms. T. is the bullying proctor.
Each student’s prompt sets off his or her essay/monologue, and the themes create great umbrellas for each story: “Can you measure intelligence with a standardized test?” “Does the internet cause connection or disconnection?”And each story nicely interweaves with other students’ stories, sometimes in surprising ways. (I will never look at a snowman the same way again, thanks to 25 MINUTES).
There is a terrific rant by Xander Wells about Coldplay and Chris Martin. He thinks he is the only kid in the world who can see the injustices around him. “This isn’t what Chris Martin wanted!” he warns. There is also a clever spin on the pregnant teen story, played by Maliyha Gromata-Jones, revealing what she thinks is the most “costly choice” she has made.
Everything down to the issue of timed tests is covered in this warm-hearted piece. It is self-aware without being too self important. To quote Cyber Nerd, the play is pretty awesome, and I look very forward to watching this generation of actors and writers make their way as our next storytellers.