Jonathan Larson’s Rent obviously looms large for the cast of Inappropriate (Theater Row Theatre), a heartening rock musical featuring recent alumni from the DeSisto School, a college prep program in the Berkshires dedicated to helping “troubled” kids belie their negative label. Dancing in drill formation, the seven street-chic youths reveal through poetry and song the depths of their former delinquency—from drug and alcohol abuse to risky sexual encounters. Dauntingly honest about their backgrounds, they forcefully convey a sense of how sometimes the most blatantly “inappropriate” behavior can be the sanest response to an overly strife-filled life.
The electric-guitar lyrics, written by Michael Sottile (who also codirected with Ray Leeper) describe how the students internalized the adjectives adults hurled at them—unsociable, unstable, unbecoming, unacceptable. Though the individual stories don’t cover up the raging anger and self-destructiveness, the emphasis is on overcoming. “I lost myself sometime, somewhere,” confesses Averie Boyer (a dead ringer for Anthony Rapp), “and I’m struggling to get it back.” The journey inevitably involves confronting family abuse. In the song “Dear Dad,” a trio of young women challenge their fathers’ denial: “So what’s the reality Daddy? Did it happen?” In between Vogue poses, Josh Geyer connects his mother’s penchant for dressing him up as a girl to the promiscuity that left him nearly drowning in shame.
More of a song cycle than a bona fide musical, the production (co-conceived by A. Michael DeSisto and the late Lonnie McNeil) offers inspiring portraits of adolescent courage and transformation. Performed with unflagging rock-n-roll energy, the show makes it possible for each of the young stars to convincingly belt out the line, “I am everything that you are.”