Where are Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys when you need them, or Clark Kent and his journalism team for that matter?  Teenage years are often a mysterious time requiring detectives and superhero alter egos to navigate successfully.  If you remember those inquisitive and confusing years yourself, or you have members of your family experiencing them currently, you will be attuned to the issues under a microscope being bantered and examined in Stephen Karam’s quirky comedy “Speech and Debate”  invading TheaterWorks of Hartford until Sunday, July 26.

Enter the world of a trio of social misfits, three adolescents who are loners in high school, trying to find their way by using cyberspace to discover their own identities, make peace with their sexual orientations and maybe discover a fellow traveler, i.e. friend, along the way.

These teens are too clever for their own good as they chat, blog, pod cast and twitter, trying to find a soul mate in computer space in Salem, Oregon.  Carl Holder’s Howie, Ben Diskant’s Solomon and Jee Young Han’s Diwata like to entertain controversial issues like abortion and sex scandals, especially if they involve the town’s mayor or the high school’s drama teacher, whether they are mature enough to fully understand them or not.  Their quasi-school advisor (Eva Kaminsky) is powerless to stop the three, who reluctantly join forces, as they struggle to simultaneously create a Speech and Debate Club and a Gay/Straight Alliance.  Amazingly this lively exchange of ideas is packed with laughter, song and even dance as these budding journalists/actors/dancers take their forum of issues to the stage.  Henry Wishcamper directs this computer-age inspired comedy, with a talented cast, with aplomb.

For tickets ($37,47,58) call TheaterWorks, 233 Pearl Street, Hartford at 860-527-7838 or online at www.theaterworkshartford.org. ; Performances are Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2:30 p.m.  

While you’re there, visit the striking black and white photography exhibit in the gallery and bistro upstairs featuring the works of Christine Breslin.  Ms. Breslin has been documenting teens’ faces, the faces they show to the public, for fifteen years  She shows these Hartford kids who “are not making it through the teenage odyssey without some permanent scarring.”  The exhibit is courtesy of the New Britain Museum of American Art.

Watch a trio of teens take risks, revealing who they really are and who they desperately want to be.  Hopefully you’ll cheer on their efforts.

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