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    2008-2009 reviews:
  • Anaïs Nin Goes To Hell
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  • The Longest Running Joke of the Twentieth Century
  • Lucasville: The Untold Story of a Prison Uprising
  • Macbeth
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  • Missa Solemnis, or The Play About Henry
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  •  REVIEW: JAILBAIT

    Wrenn Schmidt and Natalia Payne in Jailbait
    Photo by Carol Rosegg
    Wrenn Schmidt and Natalia Payne

    Age of Consent

    Deirdre O'Connor's new play "Jailbait" is a lighthearted but topical exploration of underage, intergenerational dating.

    By ELIZABETH BACHNER
    Offoffoff.com

    In a society where "Barely Legal" is a bestselling magazine and a good percentage of top models are too young to vote, the relationship between grown men and teenage girls is always a thought-provoking subject. Deidre O'Connor's funny, well-paced "Jailbait," the inaugural production at Cherry Lane's new Cherry Pit Theater on Bank Street, follows two fifteen-year-old girls as they sneak out to a Boston nightclub to meet a pair of older men. Any play on this subject will touch on themes of sexuality, hypocrisy, daddy issues, and the hook-up status quo. What's striking (and, to a degree, unsettling) in O'Connor's script is that all four players in this scenario turn out to be deeply and fundamentally innocent. The script is more sweet than dark. The men are not sleazy predators, and the vibe isn't sickening. The plot pivots around the men believing that the girls are in college, even as they swallow down a few moments of "she seems younger than I remember twenty-one" hesitation. It doesn't explore the issue of men who consciously seek out jailbait girls. With darker, more troubled characters, "Jailbait" might have been a more searing and explosive play, more like early Neil LaBute. As is, it's an accomplished work by a skilled playwright.

      
    JAILBAIT
    Written by: Deirdre O'Connor.
    Directed by: Suzanne Agins.
    Cast: With Kelly AuCoin, Peter O’Connor, Natalia Payne, Wrenn Schmidt .
    Sound design by: Daniel Kluger and Brandon Wolcott.
    Set design by: Kina Park.
    Lighting design by: Pat Dignan.

    Related links: Official site
     SCHEDULE
    The Cherry Pitt
    155 Bank Street
    March 19 - April 25, 2009

    All four lead performances are smart and subtle. Natalia Payne is a standout as Claire, a thoughtful, serious girl who has recently lost her father. She is both fragile and surprisingly certain, a person forced into transformation in ways she is only beginning to see and understand. Both young actresses perfectly convey the tension between teenage uncertainty and bravado, sexual curiosity and confusion. O'Connor has written her characters with love and interest, and this cast embodies them in a satisfying way.

    This production of "Jailbait" has a few directorial glitches. The script is littered with Boston references — the girls are from Newton — but vibe is completely generic, with nothing that feels Bostonian about the nightclub or characters. It's like New York without people or subways. The nightclub where most of the action takes place is empty and silent. In a trashy, real-life nightclub that serves underage girls, the music is usually too loud to talk over, forcing people to crush together and talk into each other's ears, an atmosphere that encourages heading somewhere quieter. In "Jailbait," Claire and Robert have a long, awkward discussion while standing, undisturbed, a good eight feel away from each other. Pitch-perfect costumes and good lighting and sets help create something of a club atmosphere, but the play still requires the suspension of a weighty disbelief. The four actors are never together in the same space, and long, private bathroom discussions between the two pairs detract from the sense of drunken urgency that might be expected to hover over this sort of night.


      
    With darker, more troubled characters, "Jailbait" might have been a more searing and explosive play, more like early Neil LaBute. As is, it's an accomplished work by a skilled playwright.  

      
    By making the characters so sympathetic, so relatively clean and un-perverse, "Jailbait" skirts a moral position. It's not a probing exploration of the general theme of jailbait sex, but it is a warm, witty, touching character study, unmarred by cheap shots or melodrama. It's a fun play to watch. O'Connor is an alum of Cherry Lane's Mentor Project, and it's fitting that her entertaining coming-of-age drama has graduated to Cherry Lane's newly-emerged space. "Jailbait," after all, is partly about the bittersweet excitement of turning a new corner.

    APRIL 14, 2009
    OFFOFFOFF.COM • THE GUIDE TO ALTERNATIVE NEW YORK



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