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By Richard Ades

It could have been called Revenge of the Nerds, but Shadowbox Live preferred to call it STEM Rocks the Box.

Presented Monday, it was the latest edition of an annual show that gives students from local Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics high schools the chance to prove that they can cut up with the best of them.

Arranged like a regular Shadowbox show, with a mixture of skits and rock songs, it was an impressive display of talent. More than that, it was a lot of fun.

It helped that the skits were some of the funniest that Shadowbox has presented recently. But it’s saying a lot that they remained as funny as ever—if not funnier—with teenage thespians playing key roles in each.

Trevon Mobley exuded paranoia as a 1985 employee startled by the sudden appearance of his business’s first computer in The Office Zone. Henry Kangas generated spastic energy as a boy who wants to adopt a supernatural critter in The Boy Who Cried Werewolf. Rachel Eldridge-Allegra carried off an impersonation of an awkwardly love-struck girl in Slumber Party.

Perhaps the most challenging task was taken on by Annalisa Hartlaub, who matched Shadowbox regular Julie Klein note for note in the musical spoof Divas Do Hard Rock.

Shadowbox probably toned down its usual adult content a bit in some cases, but one skit might have made some viewers squeamish.

Damsels & Dates had a trio of nerds playing a Dungeons & Dragons-type game in which one boy imagined giving away marijuana in order to achieve his goal of making out with one of his school’s most popular girls. The combination of sex and drugs might have produced some uncomfortable moments at tables shared by parents and siblings of featured teens. In any case, Metro High School student Jeremy Boyd portrayed one of the game players with Michael Cera-like appeal.

Metro, by the way, contributed the vast majority of Monday’s teenage performers, but Columbus’s West, Africentric and Linden-McKinley also were represented.

On the musical side of the ledger, Kelly Hooper was stuck with the unenviable task of honchoing the night’s first musical number, Missionary Man. After a brief lapse, she carried it off with aplomb. Launching Act 2, Kangas growled his way through Cross-Eyed Mary with rock-god swagger.

Several other students made strong impressions on vocals and instrumentals. Perhaps the most charismatic was guitarist Jordan Griffith, who leaped around athletically before finally being granted a solo on Aeroplane.

Monday’s show demonstrated that Central Ohio’s STEM students are as comfortable performing onstage as they are peering into a test tube or working out an equation. Bravo to Shadowbox for giving them the chance to prove their versatility.

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