Looking Out // Looking In: Review

The auditorium was silent with occasional snapping coming from different parts of the room. Students listened attentively as the actors poured out their hearts and inner demons onto the stage.

“Looking out // looking in,” part of the Education Outreach Program by About Face Theatre, tours high schools to perform plays in hopes to start a dialogue about “bullying, diversity, and intersecting identities,” according to the theatre’s website.

Before the play started, a speaker informed the audience that the actors were playing themselves and the stories being told on stage were their own experiences. This aspect changed how I received the performance. There’s something fascinating about a person putting themselves in a vulnerable situation and revealing one’s self to an audience of strangers. It is also empowering to witness.

As the first actress took the stage, I was surprised as her voice was not being amplified through a microphone. None of the actors used microphones or props. They only relied on the strength of their voices and the movement of their bodies to carry the story, allowing only the stories to be the center of attention.

The performance consisted of multiple stories, containing messages of white privilege, body acceptance, and LGBTQ identity— valuable for an audience of high schoolers to hear.

The five actors moved throughout the stage, interacting with each other and shedding light on their own personal struggles.

The personal anecdotes, the poetic dialogue, and snaps of positive affirmation coming from the audience felt as if I attended a poetry slam rather than the standard play.

Minimalism doesn’t always result in a bad play, however, the passion I saw in the actors and the power of their messages didn’t match its execution in terms of storytelling as a whole. The topics and stories were intriguing, but the lack of story organization, a major plot line, and setting left a void in the performance.   

There were a few moments during the play that resulted in some chuckles but the tone was primarily serious and subdued.

While I agreed with many of the messages they conveyed, an underlying thought I had while watching was that the proclamations of acceptance were cliche and predictable. I couldn’t help but think about the recurring SNL skit “High School Theatre Show” which satirizes plays like this.

Nonetheless, the stories were intimate and personal and I can appreciate the courage and empowerment that it takes to share the struggles that they dealt with.

The actors closed out the play by connecting the themes of “homophobia, transphobia, [and] racism” to bring light to the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando. A highlight of the performance was when the actors went one by one stating some of the names of those who were killed. The commemoration was profoundly moving and spine chilling. I wish there were more moments like these in the performance.

I would expect a performance with content of this matter to leave a strong impression on me, however, its execution wasn’t consistent with the potential that the stories had.

“Looking out // looking in” had a clear, powerful, and unapologetic message. The actors’ personal stories were revealing but also endearing to listen to. There is importance in their words and these plays are essential for helping promote dialogue and hope.