Annabel LaLonde and Jason Shelton in Notice Me. Photo by Mark Champion.
BOTTOM LINE: A scathingly funny account of growing up in 2010. The times are decidedly tough for these Californian teens (depending on how you define tough).
Kids these days - what, with their drug use and their reality TV obsessions and their apathy and their 'roid rage. For four teens in the San Fernando Valley, life is full of roadblocks, even if you're white and privileged.
Playwright Blair Singer does a fantastic job evoking the (satiric) trials and tribulations of teenagedom. Singer's history writing for TV (Weeds, Monk) is evident through this script - the dialogue clips and the one-liners are prevalent. Where he really succeeds, however, is by getting the audience interested in his plot. It's just realistic enough in the beginning that the characters' actions are totally understandable, and when it gets much more ridiculous at the end, it becomes intentionally over-the-top and indulgent. The tonal shift makes for an enjoyable ride.
Notice Me tells the story of one aspiring Real World star, Stacy (Susan Spratt), and her relationship with her football player boyfriend, Craig (Jake Green). It's imperative that Craig gets accepted to a well-known college to play football, because Stacy knows that celebrities date one another and she can't be expected to date a nobody. In her white bikini and wedges, Stacy embodies the ditzy blonde; Spratt plays it up and then some. Exposing the other side of the teenage world is Stacy's less ridiculous friend Deanna (Annabel LaLonde) and Stacy's druggie brother Harry (Jason Shelton). Deanna is a sheltered LA transplant from Idaho, and Harry is a kind-hearted yet troubled stoner. He is the most interesting of the four characters and Shelton exposes his layers with appropriate attention.
In what can only be explained as a self-aware mockery of teenage life (while still respecting that kids have a lot to deal with in terms of media saturation, absent parents, and growing up too quickly), Notice Me is a lot like The Hills or The Real Housewives of Orange County. The drama, to an outside audience, is scarce and completely unnecessary, yet to those in the middle of it, it's real and dire. It is hardly a coming-of-age drama, but it is a thoroughly entertaining lesson in the genre-bending that occurs when TV people put stories on stage.
Sofia Alvarez does solid work with the direction. For my taste, the set could have been busier and more saturated in accordance with the visual bombardment of life in 2010, but a minimal approach is attempted and mostly successful. The artsy projections on the back wall are a nice touch.
An entertaining 80 minute crescendo of a play is the perfect way to spend an evening. With great performances from the whole cast and a resonantly funny script, Notice Me is mockingly indulgent.
(Notice Me plays at The Wild Project, 195 East 3rd Street between Avenues A and B, through August 1, 2010. Performances are Wednesday through Sunday at 8pm. Tickets are $25 and are available at theatremania.com or by calling 212.352.3101.)