None of the Above
By Jenny Lyn Bader
Lion Theatre, Theatre Row, New York,
Opened October 10, 2007
Adam Green, Halley Feiffer. Photo: Carol Rosegg.
In a romantic comedy with an edge, and even a message, playwright Jenny Lyn Bader has created a play that is, at the same time, a Rocky-style come-from-behind “sports” story (picture Rocky training, not for a big fight, but for the SATs!), a coming of age tale that will speak to anyone who has ever had to jump through someone else’s insanely unreasonable hoops to get ahead, a perceptive study of a dysfunctional-family, and a look at a variety of addictions and how vulnerable we all can be to them.
The amazing thing is that Bader mixes it all together so smoothly, even charmingly, so that we become involved with the two characters: Jamie, at seventten virtually abandoned in luxury by her very upscale parents and Clark, the handsome, ever-so-slightly geeky genius who is hired to tutor Jenny so she can get a perfect score on her SATs.
SATs? We’re going to spend two hours watching vocab lessons, math exercises, and learning the sneaky tricks of taking a tough exam? And not even any popcorn or Jujubes? Oy!
But it works. What Bader has done, and quite cleverly at that, is made studying for the SATs, struggling to live up to the expectations of others in this particular way, and conforming to their values into a kind of extended metaphor for growing up, coming of age, reaching one’s potential, and getting tough with life.
And there’s the romance. Of course, both Clark and Jenny have to fight against it because of the teacher-student thing, but the ancient pull starts pulling and they do indeed fall in love, but a love unique to their quirky mix. The plot spins quite smoothly until the last twenty minute or so, and then begins to wobble a bit. But by that time we’re on their side, we want them to succeed. We want them to finally kiss, for goodness sake!
For the ins and out of how the plot finally works out, be sure to bring a healthy dose of the suspension of disbelief.
The actors are excellent. Adam Green mixes the almost-geeky quality of the grad student in linguistics with a kind of just-a-guy appeal; Halley Feiffer skillfully combines the high-energy of a No-Doz popping teen with the vulnerability of a too-precocious woman-child who wants to fall in love and even finally be included for a lunch with mom on the weekend. As good as Feiffer is, she has the annoying and distracting habit of stealing glances at the audience over and over as though checking to be sure just the right person is out front.
Bader, the playwright, has a bright future, I’d guess, writing for movies and TV, as well as theatre. In fact, this very material could make a movie (it certainly has the demographic for a hit). Julie Kramer, the director, gets maximum value from the two actors in the confined, one-room set, and helps the actors chart the emotional pathways of these two complex, quirky characters. Laura Helper, set designer, has created a bedroom that seems to make real the inside of Jamie’s mind.
This is the inaugural production of the newly formed South Ark Stage Company under the artistic direction of Rhoda Herrick.