2016 Capital Fringe Review: ‘Dark Times at Grimesville High’

Sex, drugs, and… rap! Prepare to sulk in a heavy dose of it at all at Gallaudet U’s Elstad Auditorium. Written by Conor Kyle, Dark Times at Grimesville High is an attempt to flush out the truthful motivations of gaining popularity in adolescents – a story completely unrealistic. Start with Olivia (Tess Higgins), a Katie Couric, journalism student known to her peers as the “uptight girl,” swooning over the likely potential of becoming class valedictorian. She’s as naive as she is motivated, but her self-esteem rests on a bed of feelings, nothing less than a disappointing, first-time, high school hookup. Higgins provides a quirky quality throughout the Rebecca Wahls-directed musical, showcasing an ability to rise-above the tiring and paced stage direction.


Lunchtime at Grimesville High is a drug den, injected with a student body comfortable with rationalizing popularity, with proprietary, self-inflicting harm – like I said, is there any realism here?

Nonetheless, Olivia’s rebellious epiphany invokes her peers into a humorous rap-battle – “Just Say Yes” is affectionately led by Lewis (Keenan Gibson). Our gullible protagonist strives to pelt down twin birds with a single stone – I think that’s the saying, right? – trying all too hard for social acceptance, all the while, journalistically uncovering her educational playground’s deepest secrets. Grimesville Times editor, Peyton (Brittany Martz) is heartless, abhorrently wreaking havoc on the lives surrounding her as she obstructs Olivia’s trajectory for success.

The cast teams up for notable, brief, and polished scene change responsibilities – I’ve never seen school desks and chairs move so swiftly. Additional characters shared on stage are everyday teens, exaggerated in their daily interactions; Ned (Zachary Wilcox), Stacy (Chelsea Townsend), and Ray (Matt Succi). “You’ll Be Here Forever” includes mimicked choreography, and witty public school references to Disney’s 2006 childhood-obsession High School Musical, and the FOX television hit Glee – complete with third finger flaring, and “We’re All in This Together,” dancing side squats.

Expect a sympathetic standing ovation when the show’s finale rolls around. Come to think of it, maybe sympathy isn’t the reason why theatregoers stand to applaud, rather, I contribute it to the foreshadowed aftermath that comes with graduation, which only leads to separation. Then, the characters of the class of 2016 won’t be paired again, and hopefully there will be no reunion.


Dark Times at Grimesville High is playing through July 23, 2016 at Gallaudet University’s Elstad Auditorium – 800 Florida Avenue NE,  in Washington, DC. For tickets, call (866) 811-4111, or purchase them online.

Check other reviews and show previews on DCMetroTheaterArts’ 2016 Capital Fringe Page.

Read the preview of ‘Dark Times at Grimesville High.’


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Benjamin Dennis
Native to southern Pennsylvania, Ben Dennis is a writer, actor, singer and drama critic, all the while studying at Penn State University. Featured in The Record Herald, Shippensburg News-Chronicle, and Centre Daily Times, Ben’s theatrical pieces have received rave reviews from theatre-folk and new audiences alike. The 2014 Totem Pole Award Winner for “Outstanding Actor in a Leading Role”, Ben has taken an abundant passion for performance art in new directions, frequently seen as a theatre reviewer and commentator of summer-stock, collegiate-level and professional productions. Additionally, he believes in the power of up and coming talent in youth environments, advocating for arts education new theatrical interests.


  1. Did we see the same show?

    I attended “Dark Times at Grimesville High” as well, and I respectfully disagree with everything in this review. Except the comment on the swift scene changes.

    I could be wrong, but I was under the impression that this was a dark spoof on the popular culture references that were mentioned like “High School Musical” and “Glee.” The assumption that this musical dark comedy failed in its realism – which seems to be the primary complaint – discredits this review. Saying that it was “a story completely unrealistic” implies that it was trying to be realistic in the first place. When is an ensemble of actors simultaneously bursting into song and dance EVER realistic? Experience a performance for what it is, not for what YOU think it should be.

    Also, the saying is “kill two birds with one stone.” If that was a joke, I lost its meaning –similarly to how this critic lost the meaning of the show.

    Though I agree that these characters are extravagant, the cast keeps them rooted in real human qualities. The talented ladies who played Olivia and Peyton, especially, were a joy. The script was delightfully witty, and the upbeat music provided hilarious contrast to the dark lyrics. Also, I hardly think that a grand rap/dance battle complete with flips and splits qualifies as “tiring and paced stage direction.”

    I have never attended a performance in which the audience gives a standing ovation out of “sympathy.” I plan to see this show again, thank you. And I intend to give a standing ovation again, if the show is as good as it was opening night. I am in no way involved in this production, but my guests and I had an excellent time, and my points are valid. Bravo to everyone involved in this show.

  2. No. Just no. The show is sophomoric and narcissistic. The reviewer was being kind. It’s not difficult to get a standing ovation when the audience is made up of the participants’ friends and family. I want my $17 back.


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