BOTTOM LINE: This is a really great show: hysterical, clever, endearing.
Speech and Debate is incredibly well done. It's totally professional and it's obvious that the artistic heads involved have all done this before. It's a quality of theatre you don't normally get for $10. Which is awesome...and probably their point. Roundabout has a couple of new initiatives to get younger audiences. Hiptix is a great program paired with Time Out New York (hiptix.com for info) where you can get tickets to Roundabout shows for cheap (I think they're $20). We're talking Broadway shows with famous casts, shows that deliver or at least look like they should. Speech and Debate is a Roundabout Underground show (I believe the first in this new series). Roundabout Underground's aim is technically to produce new work from emerging artists but it seems obvious that it's also about attracting younger audiences. If they keep producing work like Speech and Debate, it's highly likely they'll keep the audiences they attract.
The reason Speech and Debate works is because it's attainable without being dumbed down. It's definitely not heavy, but the topics resonate with anyone who has been a teenager (especially a teenager within the past 10 or so years). The three teenagers in the play are really solid actors and their characterization walks this perfect line of relatable realism and hysterical sketch comedy. The plot is solid, cleanly developed and leads you on a journey where you're always eager to know what happens next. It never lags.
For sure this play is as funny as any movie that's out right now and the production itself is so well done that the experience will resonate deeper than sitting in a crowded movie theatre. Plus you probably won't have someone chomping popcorn in your ear.