Rich with blood sacrifices, teenage angst, and unfiltered punches to the gut, Alexis Scheer’s intimate and formidable Our Dead Dead Drug Lord is the play every 90’s kid lesbian must see this fall. Squeeze (the tenacious Elena Victoria Feliz), Zoom (the eager Lauren Smith), and Pipe (the imposing Isabella Maria Valdes) of The Dead Leader’s club assemble to welcome their newest member, Kit (the daring Isabel Rivera), who may or may not be the secret daughter of their latest subject of study, Pablo Escobar. At first, it seems like the girls’ biggest concern is convincing their private school to reinstate their official club status for their college applications and a disturbing yet familiar teenage lust for toxic men – but under the surface, they are wading through much murkier water.
Sophiyaa Nayar’s moving and tactfully directed production makes excellent use of Steep’s new home. Sydney Lynne’s crafty set design puts the audience inside the club’s scrappy treehouse. Produced in an old church with no lighting grid or rigging yet installed, lighting designer, Eric Watkins aptly illuminates the fort with a combination of string lights, lanterns, and a spooky swinging lightbulb.
As someone who used to have to frequently explain having a dead dad to other kids, most of whom wouldn’t experience a loss of the sort for many more years, I quickly learned that humor was the best way to prevent cloying attempts at empathy. The deep laughter throughout this play, and especially following the line “because my dad died,” was a dynamic display of artistic excellence with credit to both Scheer and Nayar’s comedic timing, which rang exceptionally poignant for me.
While my own admittedly anachronistic high school resume credit of Grief Support Group Co-Facilitator never involved seances or cocaine, the guilt, the shame, and suffering felt by Scheer’s willfully ferocious characters remain profoundly familiar and heartbreaking. I felt a visceral solidarity with the older women in the audience who clutched their friends’ hands for dear life (see here for a detailed content warning and list of mental health resources). And yet, with the most powerful piece of brujéria saved for the very end of the play, I left Steep Theatre more hopeful and empowered than ever.
Our Dear Dead Drug Lord runs at Steep Theatre’s new location, 1044 W Berwyn Ave, until December 10. Masks and proof of vaccination are required for this production.
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Kit – Isabel Rivera
Squeeze – Elena Victoria Feliz
Zoom – Lauren Smith
Pipe – Isabella Maria Valdes
Additional Roles – Liliana Renteria
Additional Roles – Adriel Irizarry
Director – Sophiyaa Nayar
Stage Manager – Lauren Lassus
Scenic Designer – Sydney Lynne
Lighting Designer – Eric Watkins
Associate Lighting Designer – Liz Gomez
Costume Designer – Serena Sandoval
Scenic Collaborator – Shannon Evans
Sound Designer – Matthew Chapman
Props Designer – Lonnae Hickman
Intimacy & Fight Choreographer – Gaby Lobotka
Choreographer – Jenn Freeman
Assistant Costume Designer – Jessica Gowens
Assistant Director & Brujéria Consultant – Daniela Martinez
Dramaturg – Kristin Leahey^
Dialect Coach– Sándor Menéndez
Production Manager – Jennifer Aparicio
Technical Director – Darren Brown
Co-Casting Directors – Lucy Carapetyan & Lisa Troi Thomas Assistant Stage Manager – Lili Bjorklund
Graphic Designer – Stu Kiesow
Photographer – Jeremy Hall
Costume Embroidery – Uncommon Closet