The chants and squeals of a squad of cheerleaders are among the most cherished (read: vomit-inducing) sounds of high school’s golden years. With short skirts, high ponytails and a frighteningly high degree of pep, the four most awkward years of our lives just wouldn’t have been the same (read: less mentally scarring) without the glory (horror) that was our pep squads.
And so it is fitting that tonight and Saturday, the Yale Cabaret presents “Be Aggressive,” a truly hilarious tribute to this nostalgic element of our teenage years. Written by Annie Weisman and directed by Jen Wineman DRA ’10, the play starts out with the typical teenage story of the “odd girl out” who wishes for nothing more than to be “in” with the most popular clique in school. However, by adding a flock of flamboyant valley girls gossiping at a million miles a minute — in a town where daughters blackmail their moms for boob jobs — and living the mortification that is high school, “Be Aggressive” successfully avoids going anywhere near what’s cliché.
Laura, played by Laura Esposito DRA ’09, is an average 17-year-old cheerleader: pom-poms, group chants and high kicks are her passion, and she’d do anything for the team — even if all but one of her squadmates hate her, she can’t actually cheer for shit and, oh, her mother was just killed in a hit-and-run that left a hole in her head the size of a cantaloupe. Grave as the issue of her mother’s mysterious death is, however, Laura is as torn up about it as if it had been a soda can found mangled in the middle of the road. Rather, her priorities demand that what comes first will always be “cheer for cheer’s sake! HardCOOOOORE!”
So, when Leslie (Christina Maria Acosta DRA ’10), the only other squad member as awkward as Laura, brings an extra “hardcore” cheer camp brochure to practice one day, they both decide to blackmail, steal and lie their way to North Carolina for two weeks — only to find a very unexpected surprise at road’s end.
Featuring exceptional performances from Esposito and Acosta, as well as Phillip Owen DRA ’09, Reese Smith and Sisi Aisha Johnson DRA ’09 in the roles of Laura’s hapless father and sister, and Leslie’s pushover mother, respectively, “Be Aggressive” is of the rarest variety of comedic plays: those that are actually laugh-out-loud funny from the very beginning to the end. From the risqué and well-coordinated cheer routines to the shallow–but–fast-paced and witty banter exchanged between squad members, to Esposito’s incredibly hilarious voices, gestures and expressions, every element of the play stands out as comic genius. Lighting is also particularly well-done, effectively distinguishing between day and nighttime and creating the illusion of Laura and Leslie driving along a highway road in the middle of the stage. The stage itself, luxuriously taking up a full half of the rather tiny Cabaret, also provides a variety of environments for audience’s imaginations to travel.
Though the play is not ground-breaking in either its storyline (misfit girl goes on journey of self-discovery) or message (be yourself! “Believe to achieve!”), “Be Aggressive” is still well worth seeing, if only for a solid hour and five minutes of nonstop laughter. Whether you hated cheerleaders, wished you were one, or actually were one in high school, making fun of cheerleaders is fun for everyone. So go on down to the Cabaret this weekend with your “hands on your hips! A Smile on your lips! OhhhhhhKAY!”
“Be Aggressive” plays Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. in the Yale Cabaret, located at 217 Park Street, across from the Af-Am House.