screen gems

A high school drama club closet case? Don’t get dramatic.

Dramarama

Welcome to Screen Gems, our weekend dive into queer and queer-adjacent titles of the past that deserve a watch or a re-watch.

The Thespian: Dramarama

No, the 80s band of the same name.

This high school dramedy from director Jonathan Wysocki enchanted us with its blend of poignant coming of age angst, and ridiculous humor involving the graduating drama club of a small, Catholic high school. Dramarama follows said group of theatre kids the night of their final party together before heading off to college. For Gene (Nick Pugliese), that means finally coming out as gay to his friends and confessing a crush on his handsome bud Oscar (Nico Greetham). But Gene isn’t the only one with a secret, and it soon becomes clear that the friendships within Gene’s circle may not even last the night.

Dramarama plays as a nostalgic love letter to the high school theatre crowd. References to Clue, Cats, Cabaret, murder mystery parties, and Jekyll & Hyde abound. Yet, for all the silliness of its characters, director Wysocki never really lets them off the hook. College may await, but these are still kids, inexperienced and naive in ways they cannot anticipate. Nick’s story of coming out, therefore has a certain urgency to it: it’s not that he’s just scared of what his friends may think (assuming they realize gay people even exist). He also is scared of what that means for his future. That notion may seem inconceivable in a post-Glee world, but trust us, youngins…not that long ago–and even today, in some parts of the US–being queer could mean a life of total isolation. Being gay could mean the total loss of even the closest of friends.

An excellent cast gives authentic performances all around, led by Pugliese, who finds exactly the right balance of childish insecurity and I’m-a-grown-up-who-demands-love-and-respect fire. For any queer kids who sought theatre as a refuge, or for anyone haunted by childhood’s end as embodied by high school graduation, Dramarama is a must-see. This is the kind of movie that the cult of John Hughes wishes he could have made: a comedy of sweet, empathetic characters that avoids the trappings of stereotypes. By the time the credits roll, these characters feel like they’ve become our friends too.

Streams on Amazon, YouTube & VUDU.

Note: This article contains portions of previous posts on Queerty.