What happens when a Canadian teenage heartthrob pop star wants to revamp his image with the help of his favorite hip-hop duo? They, of course, create a reality TV show. That is the premise behind Helen Hayes Award-winning playwright Tearrance Arvelle Chisholm’s new play “P.Y.G. or the Mis-Edumacation of Dorian Belle.”
Dorian Belle’s career blew up and boy does he know it. Not always aware of his own privilege or where he fits in the grand scheme of popular music, he is searching for a connection. P.Y.G. (Petty Young Goons) is a group on the rise that Dorian cares about. Alexand Da Great and Blacky Blackerson are the hip-hop artists behind P.Y.G. and both also struggle with where they fit and how a relationship with Dorian may affect their position.
‘P.Y.G. or the Mis-Edumacation of Dorian Belle’ is engaging, fun, and thought-provoking.
The universe they live in closely yet animatedly parallels our current culture. There is a parody social media forum called “Piquer” which is eerily similar to a platform limited by 280 characters. The audience also gets to experience commercials for products such as “De-Woke Spray” and “Ally Kit” which adds a heightened element of comedy.
Chisholm also directed the play and featured movement coach Tony Thomas. The clipped pace and largeness of it all felt like a cartoon, in the way that everything feels funny and light. But then, something would happen, or something would be said, that made it all feel a little too real. Although there were definitely elements of this play that was funny for the sake of a silly joke, it was all completely rooted in truth.
Simon Kiser played Dorian Belle with a flamboyant and entitled air that draws the audience along. Kiser’s frenetic physical energy and the character’s unawareness created a funny, but not improbable individual.
Gary L. Perkins III as Alexand Da Great and Seth Hill as Blacky Blackerson make a great team. Perkins is the more grounded and logical while Hill is a bit less even-tempered. However, the two both wrestle with their roles and relationship with Dorian. Alexand, in particular, feels the overwhelming responsibility for presenting a certain way for the cameras. Their chemistry allows the give and take of their relationship as written truly come to life on stage.
Richard Ouellette designed the set that was part recording studio, film studio, and deluxe mansion. The use of color and space created a wild play area for the actors. The set lent itself beautifully to projections, designed by Kelly Colburn.
Costume designer Danielle Preston’s work immediately showed the disconnect between Dorian and P.Y.G. As the story progresses we see Dorian’s costumes change. As they turn into the various spokespeople for the commercials, their costumes are completely ridiculous and fun.
Gabriel Clausen worked as sound designer and composer on this production. The original compositions were smart and strong, often picking up on common themes and harkening back to popular music.
“P.Y.G. or the Mis-Edumacation of Dorian Belle” is engaging, fun, and thought-provoking. The audience is sure to leave feeling a little bit more connected and hopefully will have learned a little something too.
Running Time: 1 hour and 50 minutes with no intermission.
Advisory: strobe lights, water-based smoke and haze.
“P.Y.G or the Mis-Edumacation of Dorian Belle” runs at Studio Theatre through April 28. For tickets or more information click here.