nytheatre.com review by Nathaniel Kressen
July 23, 2010
Set in contemporary Los Angeles, Notice Me is a coming-of-age story following four high school archetypes: the mindless sex-bomb, the upper-middle-class drug dealer, the star football player, and the small-town transfer student. Playwright Blair Singer (an experienced television writer) uses punchy dialogue that yields some enjoyable comedic moments. Yet, by the end of the play, the sitcom-style rhythm has rarely broken into something more sincere, and the audience is left with little understanding of the personalities that lie beneath the personas.
At the top of the play, Stacy (Susan Spratt) poses in a bikini for provocative portraits, preparing her submission to casting associates at MTV's The Real World. Fittingly, she considers "looking like a porn star" to be a compliment. When her friend Deanna (Annabel LaLonde) sheepishly admits that she's fallen for Stacy's drug-dealing brother Harry (Jason Stelton), she takes the opportunity to recall how every one of his past girlfriends has gone insane. Undaunted, Deanna pursues a relationship with him through genuine conversation (a rarity in their circle) and by promising not to go crazy.
Meanwhile, in an absurdly self-obsessed relationship, Stacy and her boyfriend Craig (Jake Green) argue whether they should pursue a life of fame, or if he should try a profession that might cure his depression. At her encouragement, he opts to take steroids to secure a spot on a major college football team. Singer's brand of dialogue is especially effective in this scene, as the characters' opposing desires are powerfully felt, yet their vocabularies are severely limited.
As can be expected, complications arise and the group implodes on itself. Frustratingly, no one's perspective changes. The characters react strongly in conflict but rarely fight for anything. One can say that such directionless behavior is true to the culture, however as an audience member I wanted to identify with them more. Character development comes secondary to plot movement, with the female characters feeling particularly underwritten. A twist at the end of the show proves interesting but remains hard to justify.
Despite the script's shortcomings, the actors are absolutely committed and make the most of each scene. Director Sofia Alvarez and scenic designer James Bolenbaugh stage the play simply, using only two scaffolding units and a bench to represent various locations. This bare bones approach proves effective, especially late in the play, when two climactic scenes occur simultaneously in separate areas of the stage. Lighting design by Eric Southern and projection design by CHIPS ground each scene in its respective location perfectly. Throughout the show, their contributions provide a stylish and sexy backdrop to the action.
This world premiere of Notice Me displays an abundance of talent, with the design elements especially noteworthy. Singer has an obvious talent for story structure and pitch-perfect sense of humor, no doubt developed during his time as a writer on shows such as Weeds and Monk. As he continues writing for theatre, I would encourage him to unite these strengths with elements more personal.