GOOOOOO! SPEECH TEAM!, Factory Theater, at the Athenaeum Theatre. Somewhere between high school drama and debate lies the no-man’s-land of forensics, better known as “speech team.” Playwright Jenny Kirkland, who’s judged forensics meets for ten years, has an eye for the archetypes of this geek subrealm that’s well matched by the Factory cast’s knowing portrayals. Goooooo! Speech Team! is something of an in-joke within an in-joke, as who knows how many actors got their start on a forensics team.

The dead-on re-creations of excruciatingly bad interpretations, within the context of an extracurricular activity as difficult to pull off as performance art, are also affectionate. There’s an infectious silliness to Michele Suffredin’s direction that redeems the self-consciously sketchy scenes, and some Happy Days subplots are saved by precise characterizations. The climax comes together a little hastily, but the bright comic interplay and energetic pacing keep things high-spirited.

Particularly good are Jason Lubow as a principal who’s more interested in the basketball program, Jennifer Pompa and Peter Marcy as parents of speech-team siblings, Jerry Hlava as a failed team alum, and Michael Beyer as an angry young team star. As the faculty voice of reason, William Smillie has a marvelously relaxed, understated stage presence. But as the mad, brutally motivated, secretly tragic coach, Molly Brennan shines brightest. She claims she’s never had anything to do with forensics, but you’d never know it from her perfectly enunciated, exhaustingly dynamic performance.

–Brian Nemtusak